AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR: Previewing the NCAA's Final Four

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(WDBJ7) -- Another year of college basketball is coming to an end, but not before what's sure to be an epic Final Four. Fifth-seed Auburn will tangle with top-seeded Virginia, while No. 2 Michigan State will battle it out with No. 3 Texas Tech for a chance to keep dancing.

VIRGINIA

The Virginia Cavaliers, winners out of the South Region, needed overtime to reach their first Final Four since 1984 and head coach Tony Bennett's first overall.

Bennett's father Dick Bennett, coached Wisconsin to the Final Four in 2000 — beating Purdue in the regional finals.

It took a last-gasp jumper from Mamadi Diakite as time expired to force overtime and the Cavaliers got clutch baskets from Ty Jerome and Hunter, who also had two free throws before Kyle Guy and Kihei Clark sealed the victory in the extra period.

Guy scored a team-high 25 points and made five second-half three-pointers to bust out of a shooting slump against No. 3 seed Purdue.

"I was definitely flashing back to when I was on my knees last year, and I did it again," Guy said of the celebration. "Just overflowing with joy. So happy for my teammates and my coaches and myself to be able to break through in the way that we did this year."

Virginia, who surrendered an NCAA-best 55 points per game, gave up 42 alone to Purdue's Carsen Edwards. Edwards was named the Most Outstanding Player of the South regional, becoming the first player to win the honor from a losing team since Stephen Curry in 2008.

Virginia's tough defense and perimeter shooting will be needed to make their first ever National Championship game. Virginia ranked as the 5th-best three-point shooting team in the country.

The Cavaliers will face off against the Auburn Tigers who have needed a few things to go their way throughout this year's tournament as well.

AUBURN

The Tigers nearly were upset in the first round by the New Mexico State Aggies but sealed the deal after Aggies guard A.J. Harris passed up a potential game-tying laying in favor of the go-ahead three-point attempt.

The Tigers led by as many as 13 midways through the second half and withstood a late run by New Mexico State to move on to play the Kansas Jayhawks whom they had no problem dismantling.

Following a 97-80 dubbing of the North Carolina Tar Heels, it was on to the Elite 8 for Auburn.

The trigger-happy Tigers overcame an early deficit with a hot-shooting second to return to the region final for the first time in 33 years. But they'd be without Chuma Okeke, who was instrumental in their Sweet 16 victory over UNC. The big man recorded 20 points and 11 rebounds before being diagnosed with a torn ACL after the game.

Auburn met Kentucky for the third time this season in the Elite 8 and like most of this year's tournament games, it came down to late-game execution. The Tigers avenged an 80-53 February loss to Kentucky with a 77-71 win in the regional final, proving that champions are made in March and April.

Auburn plays freely, with players seeming like they're performing on the fly, but it has worked. They too can stroke it from three, as well. The high-scoring Tigers are tops in the country in three-pointers made and have already made 49 in their first four NCAA tournament games.

VIRGINIA & AUBURN HEAD-TO-HEAD HISTORY

Virginia and Auburn have met between the lines four times, the last coming in 2009 when the Tigers defeated the Cavaliers 68-67.

BETTING ODDS AND HOW TO WATCH

Virginia opens up as 5.5-point favorites over Auburn. The two teams will tip-off Saturday, April 6 at 6:09 p.m. on CBS/WDBJ7.


IZZO BEATS COACH K FOR THE SECOND TIME IN 13 TRIES

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski are both Hall of Fame coaches and have met on the biggest stages countless times. But before today, Izzo was 1-11 vs. Coach K, with the lone win coming in the 2005 NCAA Tournament. The Spartans defeated the Blue Devils 78-68 in that one.

They say you're only as good as your last game, right?

Zion Williamson, the presumptive top pick in the NBA Draft and the biggest star of this NCAA Tournament, had a game-high 24 points and 14 rebounds for Duke. But it was Winston who stole the show with 20 points and 10 assists. He made nine of his 23 shots and never shied away from taking it at Duke and shooting at nearly every opportunity in the East Region final Sunday.

It took guts and clutch jumpers from Michigan State to overcome the freshman-laden Blue Devils who have survived and advanced all throughout the tournament.

"Now is not the time to doubt yourself," Winston said. "We've been working, we've been playing all year to get to these moments. Now's not the time to shy away from those big moments."

The Spartans sort of breezed through the tournament, only being tested surprisingly in their first-round matchup against Bradley.

Michigan State survived that one by leaning on the brilliance of Cassius Winston and a remarkably efficient performance at the free throw line.

The game featured a bit of controversy that got a lot of people talking on social media. During a timeout, Izzo got into freshman Aaron Henry during a timeout, first running up to the guard as he came off the court and tapping him in the stomach while in a fit of rage.

It continued during the huddle when he lunged at Henry and had to be settled down by other players.

Henry himself took to Twitter to agree with a few things said about his coach, acknowledging that he knew what he signed up for and reiterating that he's "all for it".


The Spartans have leaned on their leader Cassius Winston throughout the tournament and will need his scoring punch and leadership to overcome a stout Texas Tech defense to reach another NCAA Championship game.

TEXAS TECH

A strong Elite 8 run in last season's tournament has been followed up with a Final Four trip for the Texas Tech Red Raiders in this year's affair.

Coach Chris Beard and his stingy defense (third-best scoring defense in the nation) will get after teams all game. Their offense, however, has been less than impressive all season, ranking 156th nationally in points scored per game. They'll likely lean on probable NBA lottery pick Jarrett Culver to help weather the storm.

The Red Raiders held the Gonzaga Bulldogs to 42 percent shooting, some 10 points below their average. This was only the fourth time Gonzaga was held under 70 this season.

“It’s real. That defense is real,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said after the Elite 8 game. “It impacted us tonight. They took a lot of balls tonight.”

Texas Tech has never reached the Final Four in school history and coach Chris Beard has never reached one either. Their opponent, Michigan State has reached 10 Final Fours in school history.

“Texas Tech is going to the Final Four,” Beard said. “Some of you look surprised. But Texas Tech is going to the Final Four.”

BETTING ODDS AND HOW TO WATCH

Michigan State opens up as 2.5 point favorites over Texas Tech and will tip-off on Saturday, April 6 at approximately 8:30 on CBS/WDBJ7.

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

The National Championship game will be played on Monday, April 8 at 9 p.m. on CBS/WDBJ7.