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Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Virginia Cavaliers

Texas Tech Red Raiders 31-6 (20-16-1 ATS) vs  Virginia Cavaliers 34-3 (25-12 ATS)

April 08, 2019, 9:20 PM ET / U.S Bank Stadium

Texas Tech +1.5 Virginia -1.5  / O/U 118 ML Virginia -115

NCAAM Basketball Pick Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Virginia Cavaliers

Texas Tech and Virginia will collide Monday Night in Minneapolis both vying to make school history.  Whoever cuts down the nets, will be the first in their school history to do so. Both these teams arrive relying on some of the very same things.  Senior leadership, a focus on defense, and timely shooting have steered these two programs to a heavyweight battle Monday night. Both these programs also share something many other champions do as well, battling through adversity.  With Texas Tech, it starts with their charismatic and energetic head coach, Chris Beard. Beard has been through the ringer as a head coach, just 7 years ago he was out of college altogether and coaching an ABA team in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  However, those close to him knew this was coming. He has continued to do nothing but win at every stop, including division 2 Angelo State before making the jump to Arkansas Little Rock and winning 30 games. He has never let his situation define him, and just continued to work hard every day, something he demands  from his staff and players.

Texas Tech exemplifies everything that Beard stands for, as they grind for everything on the court. They have replaced four starters, including graduate transfers Matt Mooney and Tarik Owens who arrived in Lubbock after multiple other stops. Mooney, in particular, has been through a lot in his career.  He took a train over an hour each way in high school, before stops in the Air Force and North Dakota in his college career. The team has completely bought in to what Beard is teaching, and they play as hard as anybody. Following consecutive road losses in January, and three overall, the team made a bold choice. They all decided that on road games they would sacrifice their cell phones the night before games, something most kids this generation would not be willing to do.  It demonstrated their commitment to the team, and to their coach. They continued this through the season, and brought it to the Final Four as well. You can count on Texas Tech being 100% locked in when tip comes Monday night.

This Texas Tech team is built to win in March, and they are showing it.  They are 14-1 SU and 13-2 ATS in their previous 15 games, as well as covering all of their games in the NCAA tournament.  They rank 3rd in the country defensively, allowing just 58.5 ppg. You can expect points to be at a premium, as Virginia leads the country allowing just 55.5 ppg.  How the team’s go about putting the ball in the basket, may be the key when looking at this matchup. Virginia relies on the three point line as over 35% of their production this season comes from behind the arc.  This could be problematic, as Texas Tech is 8th in the country defending the three, using there length and quickness to take away easy looks. Virginia is also struggling to get production from deep outside of Guy and Jerome.  In the previous two games, they have just one made three from somebody outside of those 2. Texas Tech will be glued to Kyle Guy, and Virginia is going to need somebody else to hit some shots to have a chance. De’Andre Hunter is expected to be a lottery pick, however he has struggled a bit as of late.  He hasn’t been able to muster much offense this tournament, 14 being his biggest effort since the opening round vs Gardner Webb.

National Championship Pick  Virginia Cavaliers vs Texas Tech Red Raiders 

Expect Tariq Owens to use his long arms and great shot blocking to minimize the impact Hunter has. Texas Tech relies much more on moving the ball and scoring inside. The Red Raiders score 51.8% of there points inside the arc, led by Big 12 Player of the Year Jarret Culver, who appears poised to be a top five NBA draft selection.  Virginia relies a lot on Ty Jerome to create offense for them, using his size and vision to find opportunities for Guy and Hunter. This was on full display against Auburn and Purdue, but that could be a lot more difficult against Texas Tech. The primary defender against him in the last two games has been Jalen Harper for Auburn and Carsen Edwards for Purdue, both very undersized and not known for playing defense. He was able to back them down and see over the defense, something he might not be able to do Monday night.  Tech will use a lot of Mooney, a terrific on ball defender who has the size to to disrupt what Jerome likes to do. There is also length all over the court to create deflections, illustrated by Texas Tech ranking 17th in the country in takeaways. With both defenses being so good when set in the half court, creating points off turnovers could be the difference.

Mooney was terrific vs Michigan State, and while you expect him to bring it again Monday night, it may be his running mate who is the x-factor.  The Italian born Davide Moretti is a sharp shooter who does not fear the big moment. He has hit big shots all year, including the ones that sank Gonzaga in the Elite 8.  He was not at his best Saturday, which might not be good for Virginia. He shoots over 45% from deep on the season, with 2 makes per game. Virginia will utilize their famous pack line defense, which at times can allow shooters room to hit shots.  If they give Moretti too much room, expect him to make them pay.

This game has all the makings of a classic.  Nothing will come easy, and both teams will do everything they can to get their one shining moment.  In games like this, it is often the team that can go to multiple options that has the upper hand. Texas Tech has Culver and Mooney playing at an elite level, and shooters like Moretti and Francis can get hot at any time.  Virginia has gone to relying on Jerome to create almost everything, and Guy to make all of their important shots. The versatility of Texas Tech on offense, combined with multiple guys who can make shots in the clutch should be just enough to boost the Red Raiders.

The Pick: Texas Tech +1.5

Rhett Sheibley
Rhett Sheibley
Rhett also has several Handicapping Contests Wins (baseball, football, hockey, and basketball) and since joining CTS 365, which have made him a sought-after expert and a regular contributor on various sports outlets.