Something’s got to give on Saturday when the #1 Virginia Cavaliers (28-2) and their stingy defense play the high-flying offense of the #5 Auburn Tigers (22-9) at U.S. Bank Stadium (6:09 pm ET) in Minneapolis in the 2019 Final Four. The Cavaliers are being given the edge, opening as 6-point chalk, with the total at 131.
The winner will move on to Monday’s national championship game, facing the winner of #3 Texas Tech vs #2 Michigan State.
Auburn Tigers Preview
Statistically, the Tigers have been among the country’s best offenses this year, entering the game averaging 80 PPG, which ranks 34th in the country. They are heavily reliant on the three-ball, shooting the 8th most three-point attempts while connecting at the 15th highest percentage in the nation (38.3%).
It’s a boom or bust strategy that has exploded of late. Auburn hit 30 threes, combined, in their Round of 32 and Sweet 16 wins over #4 Kansas (89-75) and #1 UNC (97-80). But they proved they are not a completely one-dimensional team in the Elite Eight, beating #2 Kentucky 77-71 (OT) despite going just 7/23 from beyond the arc (30.4%).
On defense, Auburn is giving up 68 PPG, 96th in the nation, but the Tigers have been better than that efficiency-wise. They head to Minneapolis ranked 38th in adjusted defensive efficiency at KenPom. Bruce Pearl runs another boom-or-bust strategy on D, with his speedy guards playing highly aggressive man-to-man, constantly looking for steals.
Offensively, Auburn has been led by star guard Bryce Brown, who’s scoring a team-best 16 points per game. Brown was great against Kansas (25 points, 7/11 from three) and, after a quiet night against UNC (12 points), torched Kentucky in the Elite Eight for another 24 points on 8/12 from the field.
His backcourt mate, Jared Harper, was even better against the Wildcats. Harper was only 7/18 from the field, but hit all 11 of his free throws while adding five assists, four rebounds, and three steals.
The team will be without its leading rebounder in the Final Four, unfortunately. Chuma Okeke, who leads the way with 7 boards a night, tore his ACL against UNC. His absence was felt against Kentucky, with the Wildcats winning the rebounding battle 41-37, but it didn’t stop Auburn from moving on.
The Tigers haven’t been reliant on second-chance points this season. Even with Okeke in the lineup, the was only hauling in 32 rebounds a game, 193rd in Division I.
Auburn vs Virginia Statistical Comparison
|30-9 (11-1 neutral)||Record||33-3 (8-1 neutral)|
|+24.70 (11th)||Overall Efficiency Rating||+34.23 (1st)|
|121.0 (6th)||Offensive Efficiency Rating||123.0 (2nd)|
|96.3 (38th)||Defensive Efficiency Rating||88.8 (5th)|
|78-77 vs #12 New Mex. St.||Round of 64 Result||71-56 vs #16 Gardner Webb|
|89-75 vs #4 Kansas||Round of 32 Result||63-31 vs #9 Oklahoma|
|97-80 vs #1 UNC||Sweet 16 Result||53-49 vs #12 Oregon|
|77-71 vs #2 Kentucky||Elite 8 Result||80-75 (OT) vs #3 Purdue|
Virginia Cavaliers Preview
The Tigers will be facing a Virginia team known for its defense, but actually has more impressive statistics at the other end of the court. The Cavs rank 5th in offensive rating and 2nd in adjusted offensive efficiency at KenPom. They only average 72 PPG, because they play at a slow pace, but they are 21st in effective field-goal percentage (55.2%) and 8th in three-point percentage (39.4%).
Their top-three scorers (Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and DeAndre Hunter) all hit at 39.9% or better from three, while stretch-four Jay Huff is at an elite 46.7%.
The Cavaliers pair their efficient offense with an imposing D, one which sits 3rd in defensive rating, 5th in defensive efficiency, and 1st in PPG (allowing just 55 points, on average).
It’s going to be difficult for Auburn to find a weakness to exploit. While the Tigers were able to get theirs against two solid defenses in Kentucky (9th in adjusted efficiency) and UNC (15th in adjusted efficiency), UVA’s pack-line is a different beast. Auburn’s attack is at its best when it’s playing quickly and getting rhythm shots in transition. The packline slows the game to a crawl.
On offense, Kyle Guy leads Virginia, scoring 15 points per game, while Braxton Key (who’s now coming off the bench) leads the team in rebounds, pulling in 6 rebounds per game.
As a team, Virginia is pretty mediocre in terms of rebounding, pulling down 33 RPG, which ranks 156th in the nation.
The Cavaliers have to feel lucky to be here. Tony Bennett was able to reach his first Final Four only thanks to a miraculous last-minute comeback against Purdue (80-75 OT).
While Virginia really hasn’t played its best in the tournament, fans will be encouraged by the fact that Guy looked more like his sharpshooting self in the Elite Eight. UVA’s leading scorer has 25 points on 8/19 from the field and 5/12 from three.
Coming into the game, Guy, a 42.7% three-point shooter, had hit just 3/26 from beyond the arc.
When it comes to the spread, Virginia has been the best bet in the country all season long, going 25-11-0 ATS. But approach with caution because Auburn is a tremendous 22-15-1 ATS, itself.
Get the current odds, spread, and over/under projection for Auburn vs Virginia above and good luck betting.