4 key questions that will decide the Final Four of 2019



the 2019 Final Four is near. Virginia, Brown, State of Michigan Y Texas Tech They have descended to Minneapolis. The wait for March madnessThe annual culmination is almost finished.

With the games on Saturday – No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 5 Auburn (6:09 ET, CBS), No. 2 Michigan State vs. No. 3 Texas Tech (8:49 ET, CBS): Yahoo Sports basketball writers are approaching, gathered to answer the four most intriguing questions that will be posed this weekend: two per confrontation.

1. Can Auburn accelerate Virginia? (Or, will you try?)

The first match on Saturday is a stylistic clash. Virginia is the slowest team in college basketball. His games have, on average, 60.6 possessions per team. His standard offensive journey lasts almost 21 seconds. Those brands rank 353 and 352, respectively, of the 353 teams in Division I. Auburn, on the other hand, scored his biggest surprise of the tournament with 97 points on 75 possessions against North Carolina. Your typical offensive excursion is only 16.5 seconds. He has only played one game all season at a slower pace than the Cavs average.

So, in theory, an up-tempo contest would be suitable for Auburn. Attacks Virginia's suffocating defense before it is established, the thought continues. Accelerates the methodical and precise offensive of the superior seed. Push Virginia out of her comfort zone, to an athletic encounter, where Jared Harper and Bryce Brown will thrive.

However … there are equally compelling reasons why Auburn can be perfectly happy with a routine. First, the macro view: is a loser of 5.5 points. It is the inferior team. The fewer opportunities you give to a superior enemy to exercise that superiority, the better the situation will be.

That's especially true without the injured Chuma Okeke. Tigers are abbreviated. It may take 40 minutes each of Harper and Brown, who led them to an Elite Eight victory over Kentucky. Coach Bruce Pearl even admitted that his strategy in the second half was "getting out of the way, taking the ball to Jared or Bryce." That's probably your best bet again, if Harper and Brown have legs. They scored 35 of the 47 points of the second half of Auburn and overtime in the last round in a game played at a pace of possession of 62 in regulation. They also needed six minutes of rest. Could they be so prolific without respirators and / or at a faster pace?

Related: Auburn knocks off the No. 1 UNC:

eleven The pictures

No. 5 Auburn upsets No. 1 UNC in Sweet 16

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KANSAS CITY, MO – MARCH 29: Coby White # 2 of the North Carolina Tar Heels defends against the Auburn Tigers in the third round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament 2019 held at the Sprint Center on March 29, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri (Photo by Ben Solomon / NCAA photos through Getty Images)

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – MARCH 29: Luke Maye # 32 of North Carolina Tar Heels handles the ball against the Auburn Tigers during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 29, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire / Getty Images)

KANSAS CITY, MO – MARCH 29: Garrison Brooks # 15 of the North Carolina Tar Heels fights for the ball against Anfernee McLemore # 24 of the Auburn Tigers in the third round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament 2019 held at the Sprint Center on 29 March. 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ben Solomon / NCAA photos through Getty Images)

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – MARCH 29: JV McCormick # 12 of the Auburn Tigers leads the basket against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 29, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – MARCH 29: Seventh Woods # 0 of the North Carolina battles Tar Heels for a loose ball with Bryce Brown # 2 of the Auburn Tigers during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 29, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – MARCH 29: Cameron Johnson # 13 of the North Carolina battles Tar Heels for the ball against the Auburn Tigers during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 29, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri . (Photo by Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

Chuma Okeke of Auburn screams in pain after being injured during the second half of a NCAA men's college basketball tournament, a regional semifinal match against North Carolina on Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo (AP Photo / Charlie Riedel)

Coby White (2) of North Carolina has fun while Horace Spencer (0) of Auburn defends during the second half of a men's basketball tournament of the NCAA. Regional Midwest semifinal tournament on Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo / Charlie Riedel)

Samir Doughty of Auburn celebrates during the second half of a NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Midwest Regional University semifinal game against North Carolina on Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo / Orlin Wagner)

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams shouts from the side during the second half of a NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Midwest Regional semifinal game against Auburn Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo / Charlie Riedel)

Bryce Brown of Auburn applauds during the second half of a Midwest Regional Midwest Regional semifinal game at a men's NCAA basketball tournament against North Carolina on Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo / Charlie Riedel)




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Therefore, the rhythm question becomes: Can Auburn get the best of both worlds? Can you use the rhythm to occasionally make space for Harper and Brown, but do it selectively to keep them fresh? Can it disturb Virginia's offensive, but not get carried away by the feeling that should Destabilize the game to win?

The answer will come from a struggle between the best defense of the nation's rotation and one of its safest crimes. The selective tempo thrust of Auburn depends on its live ball rotation force. The Tigers give their opponents 24.9 percent of their possessions. The Cavs only cough the ball in 14.7 percent of theirs. That differential will be the widest of any D-I game in the entire season. Something has to give. Whatever the side, he probably will not play again on Monday night. Henry Bushnell

2. Will Virginia match Auburn's strength or attack her weakness?

After Auburn's triumph in the Elite Eight, Okeke's lateral presence was celebrated as an emotional catalyst. However, if Kentucky had won, their absence on the court would have been history. P.J. Washington and Reid Travis combined for 37 points on 23 field goal attempts (and seven free throws missed for the start).

Without Okeke, Auburn is belittled in advance. And while the Virginia strike zone does not have a low-post scorer with Washington's ability, it has the size to dominate the Tigers. The question is whether Tony Bennett will allow it.

Bennett's rotation has fluctuated according to the situation. His three-man core (Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, De'Andre Hunter) will rarely sit down. For the rest, there is little certainty. Here are your minutes against Gardner-Webb, Oklahoma, Oregon and Purdue (OT *), respectively:

  • Mamadi diakita (6 feet-9 F / C): 27, 28, 35, 42 *

  • Kihei Clark (5 feet-9 g): 36, 33, 37, 24 *

  • Jack Salt (6 feet-10 C): 5, 2, 3, 34 *

  • Braxton Key (6 feet-8 F): 11, 21, 7, 2 *

  • Jay huff (7 feet 1 C): 5, 9, 1, 0 *

Bennett can play a non-real-big lineup that goes 5-9, 6-2, 6-5, 6-7, 6-8. You can also display a two-big line that goes 6-2, 6-5, 6-7, 6-9, 6-10.

Diakite has played in a territory of almost 40 minutes in the last two weeks. But salt, an old man with brute strength, is the telling example. He barely saw the ground through three rounds, then he was excellent in his supporting role against Purdue.

If Bennett returns to the Hunter-Diakite-Salt lineup against Auburn, the Tigers do not really have an accountant. They are already a poor team of defensive rebounds. While Virginia can get the first shots, the losers will be in trouble.

See the odds of each remaining team winning everything:

4 The pictures

Championship odds for the Final Four teams March Madness

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No. 5 Auburn: 7/1 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(AP Photo / Charlie Riedel)

No. 3 Texas Tech: 4/1 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(AP Photo / Marcio Jose Sanchez)

No. 2 of the state of Michigan: 7/4 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(AP Photo / Patrick Semansky)

No. 1 Virginia: 8/5 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(AP Photo / Michael Conroy)




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But does Bennett trust that great lineup to contain Harper and Brown? Clark is probably the best match for Harper. And the Purdue game was an anomaly related to Carsen Edwards. Only opponents with great guards have recently brought Clark to the bank. It should fit perfectly in Saturday's game.

However, if Clark is on the court, Salt probably is not.

The best hope of Auburn is another explosion of Brown-Harper. It is likely that Bennett will mix and match the alignments primarily to avoid that explosion. Which could mean that Virginia can not make the most of Auburn's weakened front line. It is up to Bennett to administer giving and receiving. Henry Bushnell

3. Can Michigan State take charge of the ball against Texas Tech?

There is a problem that has appeared in many of the losses of the State of Michigan in recent years. Too often, the Spartans struggle to take care of basketball.

Michigan State delivers the ball at 18.5 percent of its possessions this year, an improvement over the last two seasons, but still a mark below the national average. In the Spartans' six losses this season, they have committed 15.8 turnovers per game, compared to 10.4 per game in their 32 wins.

Caring for the ball should be especially important against an aggressive Texas Tech defense that thrives on producing food to go. The Red Raiders force the turnovers thanks to the quick hands of guard Matt Mooney, the long arms of the perimeter cap Jarrett Culver and the instincts and times of shot-breakers Tariq Owens and Norense Odiase.

Three keys for any Texas Tech opponent are limiting turnovers, scoring in the transition before the Red Raiders defense is established and generating additional possessions through the offensive glbad when the defenders help the defenders out of the Rebound position. Michigan State's track record is solid in the last two of those areas, but the way the Spartans fit into the hands of Texas Tech will always be key. Jeff Eisenberg

36 The pictures

The best photos and moments of the madness of March 2019.

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Buffalo's Jeremy Harris chases a loose ball during the second half of a first-round men's college basketball game against the state of Arizona at the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 22, 2019, in Tulsa, Oklahoma (AP Photo / Charlie Riedel)

Wisconsin guard D & # 39; Mitrik Trice, below, clings to the ball under Oregon guard Ehab Amin during the first half of a first-round game at the NCAA men's college basketball tournament on Friday, March 22. of 2019, in San José, California. AP Photo / Chris Carlson)

Dontay Caruthers of Buffalo celebrates a basket of teammates during the first half of a first-round men's college basketball game against the state of Arizona at the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 22, 2019, in Tulsa, Oklahoma (AP Photo / Charlie Riedel)

DES MOINES, IOWA – MARCH 21: Coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans looks at Aaron Henry # 11 after a play during his game in the First Round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament against the Bradley Braves in the Wells Fargo Arena on March 21. 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Jamie Squire / Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – MARCH 21: Jared Harper # 1 of the Auburn Tigers falls after driving to the basket during the first half against New Mexico State Aggies in the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament 2019 at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 21, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

Kansas State guard Shaun Neal-Williams (1) loses the ball between UC Irvine guard Spencer Rivers on the left and guard Evan Leonard during the first half of a first-round men's college basketball game at the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, California (AP Photo / Chris Carlson)

Michigan State striker Xavier Tillman (23) gets a rebound on Bradley's guard, Ja & # 39; Shon Henry (22), during a first-round men's college basketball game at the NCAA Tournament on Thursday 21 March 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo / Charlie Neibergall)

Dylan Windler, of Belmont, in the middle, goes to the basket between Bruno Fernando, on the left, of Maryland, and Darryl Morsell (11) during the second half of the first round of the men's college basketball game at the NCAA Tournament in Jacksonville, Florida. March 21, 2019. (AP Photo / Stephen B. Morton)

Wisconsin guard Khalil Iverson, left, shoots Oregon forward Paul White during the first half of a first-round men's college basketball game at the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Diego. José, California (AP Photo / Ben Margot)

DeJon Jarreau of Houston takes the ball back during the first half of a first-round men's college basketball game against the State of Georgia in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 22, 2019, in Tulsa, Okla. (Photo by AP / Jeff Roberson)

Mississippi state guard Lamar Peters watches during the second half of the team's game against Liberty in the first round of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament on Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, California. (AP Photo / Jeff Chiu)

LSU players celebrate after defeating Maryland 69-67 in a second-round game at the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. (AP Photo / John Raoux)

Josh Perkins (13) of Gonzaga hits Corey Kispert (24) after a triple by Kispert against Baylor during the second half of a second-round game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament on Saturday, March 23, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo / Rick Bowmer)

Gonzaga striker Corey Kispert, on the left, appears to pbad while Baylor guard Mario Kegler defends during the second half of a second-round game at the NCAA men's college basketball tournament on Saturday, March 23, 2019, Salt Lake City (AP Photo / Jeff Swinger)

Jarrett Culver (23), of Texas Tech, beats Nick Perkins (33) of Buffalo during the second half of a men's college basketball game of the second round at the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, March 24, 2019 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Texas Tech won 78-58. (AP Photo / Charlie Riedel)

Louis King, Oregon forward, celebrates after scoring against UC Irvine during the second half of a second-round game at the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament on Sunday, March 24, 2019, in San Jose, California. (AP Photo / Jeff Chiu)

Florida state guard Trent Forrest, left, blocks a shot by Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell Jr. during the second half of a NCAA Men's College basketball semifinal of the Western Region on Thursday, March 28, 2019, in Anaheim, California (AP Photo / Jae C. Hong)

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY – MARCH 28: Matt Haarms # 32 of the Purdue Boilermakers reacts against the Tennessee Volunteers during the second half of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South at KFC YUM. Center on March 28, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

Texas guard Matt Coleman III (2) shouts after taking charge of a Colorado player during an NCAA college basketball game in the NIT quarterfinals on Wednesday, March 27, 2019, in Austin, Texas. (Nick Wagner / Austin American-Statesman through AP)

Michigan guard Charles Matthews, left, and guard Jordan Poole leave the field after the team's loss to Texas Tech during a men's college basketball tournament of the NCA Western Region semifinal on Thursday, March 28, 2019 , in Anaheim, California (AP Photo / Jae C. Hong)

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 30: Brandon Clarke # 15 and Rui Hachimura # 21 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs compete for the ball against Norense Odiase # 32 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the first half of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament 2019 in the Western Regional Region. Center on March 30, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)

Texas Tech forward Tariq Owens celebrates after scoring against Michigan during the second half of a NCAA Men's College basketball semifinal of the Western Region on Thursday, March 28, 2019, in Anaheim, California (AP Photo / Marcio José Sánchez)

Chuma Okeke (5) of Auburn takes his leg while losing control of the ball on his way to the basket while Cameron Johnson (13) of North Carolina and Brandon Robinson of North Carolina, left, defended during the second half of a NCAA Men's Basketball Midwest Regional semifinal game on Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. Okeke was injured in the game. (AP Photo / Charlie Riedel)

Michigan State striker Xavier Tillman (23) beat LSU striker Darius Days (22) for the fumble during the first half of a Regional Eastern semifinal in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament. Friday, March 29, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo / Alex Brandon)

Seventh Woods, from North Carolina, left, and Kenny Williams stop near the end of a NCAA Men's Midwest Regional basketball tournament semifinal game against Auburn on Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo / Charlie Riedel)

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 29: Ahmed Hill # 13 of the Virginia Tech Hokies reacts after missing a plate against the Duke Blue Devils at the end of the second half in the NCAA 2019 Eastern Regional Men's Basketball Tournament game March 29 , 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr / Getty Images)

Duke guard Tre Jones (3) reacts after scoring against Virginia Tech during the second half of an NCA men's college basketball semifinal in the Eastern Region in Washington, Friday, March 29, 2019. (AP Photo / Patrick Semansky)

Gonzaga striker Rui Hachimura scores against Texas Tech during the first half of a men's NCAA Tournament Western regional basketball final game on Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Anaheim, California (AP Photo / Marcio José Sánchez)

From & # 39; Andre Hunter, of Virginia, dribbles to Purdy's Grady Eifert (24) during the first half of the final game of South Regional Regional South Basketball, male NCAA Tournament, on Saturday March 30, 2019, in Louisville, Kentucky ( AP Photo / Michael Conroy)

Trevion Williams (50), of Purdue, throws a shot against Jack Salt (33) of Virginia during the second half of the game of the NCAA Tournament college basketball men's southern regional final, Saturday March 30, 2019, in Louisville, Kentucky (AP Photo / Michael Conroy)

Mamadi Diakite of Virginia, in the center, reacts with his teammates Kyle Guy and Jack Salt (33) after hitting a shot to send the game to overtime in the game of the NCAA South Regional Regional Final Tournament college basketball against Purdue, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo / Michael Conroy)

Anfernee McLemore (24) of Auburn and Reid Travis (22) of Kentucky reach a rebound during the first half of the Midwest Regional Final game at the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament on March 31, 2019 in Kansas City , Mo. (AP Photo) / Charlie Riedel)

Auburn's Jared Harper, on the left, drives to the basket and pbades Reid Travis of Kentucky during the first half of the Midwest Regional Final game at the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament on Sunday, March 31st. 2019 in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo / Charlie Riedel)

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 31: Treks # 3 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts after their teams lost 68-67 to the Michigan State Spartans in the 2019 East NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

Michigan State Guard Cbadius Winston, right, celebrates with teammates Matt McQuaid (20), Nick Ward (44) and Gabe Brown (13) after defeating Duke in a men's final college basketball game of the NCAA in the Eastern Regional in Washington, Sunday, March 31, 2019.. (AP Photo / Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 31: Zion Williamson # 1 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts in the locker room after the 68-67 loss of his teams against the Michigan State Spartans in the East Regional Game of the 2019 NCAA Men & # 39; s Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith / Getty Images)




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4. Can Texas Tech get enough score to keep Michigan State out of the transition?

The hermetic defense has been the trademark of Texas Tech this season, but the Red Raiders' late leap from very good to elite coincided with the improvement of their offense. They went from being out of the top 100 in offensive efficiency adjusted to enter February to get the top 30 only two months later.

While Culver has gone from being a role player to All-American because of his ability to generate his own shot from the dribble, the Texas Tech offense only became explosive when his cast of support began to ease the burden on him. Mooney creates scoring opportunities for him and his teammates after dribbling, Davide Moretti is an elite shooter and Brandone Francis, Deshawn Corprew and Kyler Edwards can also make shots.

Michigan State's top-10 defense will be one of the best that Texas Tech has found, although the Spartans are not aggressive enough to take advantage of the lack of a true Red Raiders point guard. Texas Tech has scored at least 1 point per possession in each of its last 14 games, but Michigan State will play a strong defensive position, force contested shots and deliver few second-chance opportunities.

For Texas Tech, making baskets will be key for more than just the obvious reasons. The Red Raiders must score to keep Michigan State out of transition and force the Spartans to have to attack an established defense. Jeff Eisenberg

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