Welcome: Auburn, Virginia, Texas Tech and Michigan State!

NCAA/MGN

The Final Four is here and so is the basketball world. Minneapolis has long been planning for the 2019 Men’s NCAA Final Four. And ready or not, it’s on!

Many bubbles burst this weekend, but none were bigger than Michigan State beating No.1 Duke 68-67. Thanks, Michigan State, for destroying millions of basketball fans’ bracket and pools, and denying the most dynamic circus-like story in all of basketball from reaching the games marquee event!

Duke, Zion Williamson and the most talked about freshman basketball class since Michigan’s Fab Five, are, for now, a fart in a windstorm. Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo is, in his own right, one of the game’s great coaches. He beat Coach Mike Krzyzewski and the one team (1-11) that has virtually owned him to deny Duke.

Izzo will reach his eighth Final Four with the Spartans (32-6) and appears to be peaking. The team is led by Big Ten Player of the Year guard, Cassius Winston, a savvy star who plays as good as a point guard should. He scored 20 points and had 10 assists to deny Williamson and join the great Magic Johnson and Draymond Green as the only MSU players to achieve that feat in an NCAA tournament game.

Michigan State is really that good; I saw them capture the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago. They play well together and are tough and physical on defense, holding opponents to 37.6 percent shooting.

They were co-Big Ten regular season champs with Purdue, and they beat the Gophers twice, including knocking them out of the East regional NCAA tournament in Des Moines. They also beat state rival Michigan, a team that started 17-0 three times, including in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game.

The Big Ten was the conference of the year in Men’s Basketball sending a record-tying eight teams to the NCAA tournament, three to the Sweet 16 and two to the Elite Eight. It’s no secret that the Spartans are the favorites to win the National Championship.

Coach Tom Izzo Drives Michigan State to his 8th Final Four
Photo courtesy of Larry-Fitzgerald.com

Auburn (30-9) from the South Eastern Conference beat Kentucky 77-71 in overtime to reach the school’s first Final Four. Charles Barkley, Bo Jackson, and Cam Newton are Auburn’s biggest celebrity alumni names.

The Tigers like to shoot the three. They were a top 10 team in December and slipped a bit. But now look at them. They have battled back! They destroyed No. 1 seed North Carolina 97-80 in the Sweet 16, and the Tar Heels beat Duke twice and refused to lose to Kentucky a third time, so watch out. 

No. 1 Virginia holds the Atlantic Coast Conference banner, the last of a record three NCAA (Duke, North Carolina) ACC Conference No. 1 seeds. They are 33-3 and hold the nation’s best record. Based on seeding, they are the favorite paper champions right now.

Since 1985, the ACC Conference has dominated this NCAA tournament by winning 10 championships. This is Virginia’s best team since the days of Ralph Sampson. But watch out for David, disguised as Auburn.

Texas Tech Red Raiders (30-6) from the Big 12 are back and better than ever. Last year they reached the Elite Eight. They are West Regional Champions for the first time in the school’s history and they have had big-name championship-winning coaches before like Bobby Knight, and Tubby Smith. They are a dynamic defensive team. They really get after you; they don’t allow you to pass the ball. They hold their opponents to an NCAA best 36.8 percent shooting, and just 58 points a game. They match up against Big Ten Champion Michigan State on Saturday.

I can’t wait.

About Larry Fitzgerald

Larry Fitzgerald is a longstanding contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday and Friday at 9:10 am, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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