Virginia vs Auburn Live: in the Final Four: How they got here plus a prediction Virginia and Auburn have taken completely different paths to the Final Four. For UVA, making it to the national semifinals feels like a relief as much as a cause for celebration.
Virginia entered the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in five of the last six seasons before finally breaking through to the sport’s biggest stage. This run comes one year after being on the wrong end of the biggest upset in the history of March Madness, when UMBC shocked the world as a No. 16 seed and knocked out the ‘Hoos in the opening round of last season’s tournament.
Fifth-seeded Auburn is the biggest surprise in this year’s tournament. The Tigers are in the Final Four for the first time ever after an inspired run through March Madness that included victories over three of the biggest powerhouses in the sport in Kansas, North Carolina, and Kentucky. The Tigers are riding a 12-game winning streak into this matchup.
This is everything you need to know about Virginia and Auburn.What were preseason expectations?
Virginia had to get to the Final Four for this season to be a success after last year’s disaster against UMBC. The ‘Hoos returned most of last season’s team minus guard Devon Hall and big man Isaiah Wilkins and started the year at No. 5 in the preseason AP poll. It was easy to forget Virginia entered the tournament at 31-2 one year earlier after an incredible one-loss season in the ACC. The Cavaliers’ year was always going to be made in March.
The road to March
The ACC featured three of the best teams in the country, but Virginia still won a share of the conference’s regular season title at 16-2 in league play. UVA ran through the non-conference portion of the schedule unbeaten and entered their first game against Duke at 16-0. Virginia lost both matchups to Coach K’s Blue Devils this season, but were otherwise flawless before falling to Florida State in the ACC tournament.
Virginia is ranked as the No. 1 team in the country by KenPom’s metrics. The Cavaliers are also the only team in college basketball currently ranked in the top five of both offensive and defensive efficiency. In a stat that should come as a surprise to no one, Virginia also ranks dead last out of 353 DI teams in tempo. The ‘Hoos play super slow, with elite defense, and surprisingly efficient offense this season.
The road to the Final Four
Virginia hasn’t always looked impressive in their march to the Final Four, but they have survived. The opener against 16-seed Gardner-Webb saw UVA trail at halftime before rallying to avoid disaster for the second straight year. Virginia handled an uninspiring Oklahoma team in the round of 32 handily, then advanced past No. 12 seed Oregon in the Sweet 16 even if the four-point victory wasn’t pretty. The Elite Eight game against Purdue was certifiably ridiculous, with UVA surviving Carsen Edwards’ long distance onslaught with a miracle buzzer-beater to force overtime before winning in the extra frame.
Most essential player
Ty Jerome. The junior guard does everything for Virginia, setting up the offense as a facilitator, hitting big three-pointers, playing an essential role on the defensive end. At 6’5, Jerome has the size to make up for his lack of foot speed and also has an advanced feel for the game that lets him pick apart opposing defenses with the ball in his hands. He’s been UVA’s most consistent player all season.