As I’ve mentioned countless times on the pod and in the blog, March is my favorite month. So as the calendar turns over to April, my favorite sporting event of the year is set to finish in the next week. March Madness has once given us some head scratching wins, some phenomenal story lines, and empty wallets due to countless lost bets.
Today I’ll be breaking down the back-court matchups for this weekend. These battles are the ones that give basketball gurus a half-chub when talking about these games. Fun little drinking game: watch any basketball pre-game show and take a shot every-time someone says “guard play” and you’ll be smashed before tipoff.
(1) Virginia: Kyle Guy & Ty Jerome vs. (5) Auburn: Jared Harper & Bryce Brown
Kyle Guy is one of those dudes people love to hate. He’s a tailor-made Duke guard but he plays at Virginia. He’s white and he’s good at shooting threes. Plus he’s kinda annoying. His partner in crime, Ty Jerome, help bring experience to the table and these guys have to be hungry for a dub. Both junior guards should be focused and relaxed Saturday afternoon. They will be in a battle with Auburn guards Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. Listening to the Auburn/Kentucky game on the radio this weekend, Harper is a problem. He is fast and he loves getting to the basket. Brown brings better shooting to the table as he is averaging 41% from downtown this year. Harper (senior) and Brown (junior) also have big game experience as they have taken down blue-blood programs North Carolina, Kansas, and most recently, Kentucky. I give the advantage to the Tigers this weekend in the backcourt based on the swagger factor.
(2) Michigan State: Cassius Winston & Matt McQuaid vs. (3) Texas Tech: Jarrett Culver & Davide Moretti
Cassius Winston is having a career year and one of the best years in program history. I’ve been told by MSU fans that he is having the best season a point guard has had in East Lansing since Magic Johnson. He single handily beat Michigan at least 2 out of the 3 games (refs won the 3rd) and he is a handful on the offensive end. The kid makes shots that don’t look like they should go in but he has great body control. He’s also got a huge basketball IQ. His biggest downfall is that he still thinks the headband is an acceptable fashion statement in 2019. His running mate, Matt McQuaid, is either hot or cold and could be the x-factor for Sparty Saturday night. Despite a poor shooting performance in the Elite 8 game, MSU pulled through. He will need to hit more shots this weekend if they want to make it to Monday. Texas Tech has a legit NBA prospect in their best player Jarrett Culver. The 6’5″ stretch guard is averaging 22 points a game during the Big Dance and I’m not sure anyone on Michigan State will be able to hold him to under 20. Also featured for Texas Tech is Davide Moretti and he is probably the best shooter remaining the the tournament. He shoots 46% from three and you should be surprised if he misses any free throws. This will be a great guard matchup but I give a slight edge to Tech unless McQuaid shoots well.
Conclusion: Texas Tech probably has the best guards (talent-wise) of the Final Four. However, I think that the confidence that Auburn will be playing with after the teams they beat far outweigh the talent of any other guard tandem. If they can get past Virginia, they will have no problems with the guards from either MSU or Tech. If this Final Four comes down to guard play alone, Auburn will be raising a National Championship banner this winter.