NCAA Championship Opinion: We’ll Take Boring – Virginia and Texas Tech Play One for the Ages
When Virginia and Texas Tech extended their NCAA basketball seasons to one final showdown, the consensus opinion was to brace for a boring championship game. Neither team carried quite the level of national notoriety as the two teams they disposed of in the semifinals.
There were a lot of bets made on the NCAA championship illegally and legally. Fortunately, for those located in New Jersey, residents were able to bet legally on DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook and the book with the best odds on this game – Sugarhouse Sportsbook. However, none of the books had Texas Tech winning the game. The spread ranged from 1 to 1.5 points.
Both Auburn and Michigan State had talking points that could have filled the roughly 48-hours of talk-time between the final horn on Saturday and tip off on Monday night. It turns out that the best talking points would materialize from the game tagged to be boredom at its best.
After the Red Raiders finished off the Spartans to steal the spot opposite the Cavaliers, the naysayers began to bemoan the loss of a Bruce Pearl vs. Tom Izzo final. One would have thought the game was to be played by the coaches, mono e mono.
The Virginia vs. Tech matchup was a Tony Bennett, not the famous singer, against Chris Beard. Even the most-ardent of college basketball fans raised an eyebrow, whispering, "Who"? Well, little did the prognosticators of boredom know that this would turn out to be a national championship final for the ages.
Neither team had ever taken home college basketball's top prize. That should have added at least a speckle of interest. Texas Tech returned to the Elite 8 for only the second time in school history, the other being last season. Sure, neither team came with an NCAA Finals pedigree like the Spartans or War Eagle.
Let's also not forget a little irony in this final. While the Red Raiders were raiding their way to an Elite 8 spot in 2018, Virginia made March Madness history in another way. In last year's tournament, the Cavaliers became the first team ever to be seeded number one and fall victim to the ultimate Cinderella, a 16th seed.
The idea of playing with a chip on their shoulder this season had to have some effect. That chip was big as a boulder to start the game. Certainly those who wanted anything other than two first-timers in the final were in a "told you so," frame of mind the first 10 minutes.
The Cavaliers pushed out to a double digit lead at the midway mark of the first half, and what was more depressing to lovers of big scoring games was the total 24 points on the board. Yes, it did appear we might be in store for a yawner. But, the Red Raiders repeatedly proved worth their metal on the biggest stage.
Kyle Guy tied the game with three-minutes left on the first-half clock. There was some back-and-forth until a triple by Ty Jerome sent Virginia into the locker room with a three-point advantage. The second 20-minutes almost mirrored the first as Virginia crept back out to a 10-point edge after ten-minutes had ticked off the clock.
But, just like they did in the first-half, Texas Tech answered the yawns. Pesky and persistent would be profound understatements to rate the performance of the Red Raiders. They seem to yo-yo back and forth from six to eight points down, until just under five-minutes remained in the game.
A three-pointer the hard way by Norense Odiase brought what was supposed to be a boring game to a 59-59 deadlock after 37-minutes of basketball. If the last three-minutes of the 2019 NCAA National Championship game weren't enough to get you out of your seat, then you probably should check your pulse.
What the last three-minutes produced was anything but bemoaned boredom. It was exhilarating excitement. It also produced the first over-time championship game in over a decade, and only the fourth to require extra minutes since 1963.
We find it difficult to find the boredom in any sporting event that cannot decide a winner after the regulated time allotment. This overtime produced even more excitement for the purest basketball fan. How many times have we all lamented what might have been if only our boys could make free throws.
Virginia toed the charity stripe a dozen times in the OT and buried every single one of them. If clutch doesn't equal exciting, then what does? Four of those made free throws stretched out a two-point advantage to six, and there was just enough air put back in the room for Cavalier fans to breathe.
With the game still a two possession contest, Braxton Key threw down an exclamation point with a power-dunk at 14-seconds. He would add a couple free throws at the 8-second mark, just to put a little icing on this not-so-boring championship game.
So, there was no Michigan State with echoes of Magic Johnson, and no Auburn Tigers with whispers of Sir Charles Barkley. The world of college basketball got Virginia vs. Texas Tech. For all the talk of boredom prior to what was projected as a humdrum matchup, naysayers missed this call. If this is what boring looks like, we'll take it every year because this one was one for the ages.