Final Four 2019: Five reasons why Virginia will win the NCAA Tournament Championship
The Cavs have spent more than half a decade crescendoing to this moment; the best team has the best shot
We're providing you reasons to believe each of the 2019 Final Four teams can win it all.
Being that I had Virginia atop my Power Rankings almost the entire season here at CBS Sports, I made for the natural candidate to submit the Cavs' dossier of evidence for their championship credentials.
Plus, I just witnessed them win out in Louisville. It's UVA's first Final Four showing since 1984. The school has never won a national championship. It's also never had a team this good on offense and defense, combined.
But that's just the start of it.
Here are the five most notable reasons Virginia is going to win the 2019 title.
1. Virginia has rated as the best team in college basketball most of the season: This according to KenPom.com, in addition to multiple other metrics. Duke got most of the publicity, UNC got a lot of attention as it made a late push to the 1 line and Gonzaga had the top-rated offense.
But Virginia's been the best. Its defense is elite again, but the offense is better than it's ever been under Tony Bennett. Yes, Virginia plays fewer possessions per game than any team (59.2), but it makes the most of those possessions. And, oh by the way, the Cavaliers have tracked as the best points-per-possession offense in college basketball since Feb. 2, per Torvik's advanced metrics. Virginia's offensive efficiency rating in its past 15 games is 123.3.
Virginia's defense allows 88.8 points per 100 possessions, which is elite in any season.
2. Virginia has boasted the best two-way trio of players the entire season: Kyle Guy, De'Andre Hunter and Ty Jerome have not received enough attention for how good they are as a triumvirate. With Guy, you have an ever-confident shooter who's noticeably improved after entering UVA as one of the most highly rated recruits Bennett ever signed. Hunter is a likely top-10 NBA pick come this June -- an elite defensive stopper who is the basketball version of a five-tool player. Jerome has a killer's mentality and never gets rattled. They're good on both ends of the floor and form probably the best nucleus in college basketball.
3. Kyle Guy's back to normal: Guy had been struggling in his NCAA Tournament career. If the second half and overtime of the Elite Eight win over Purdue provide an accurate signal, though, his woes are behind him. And if that's the case, .
Guy has taken 267 of Virginia's 769 3-point attempts this season (36.6 percent, the highest ratio on the team) and made 42.7 percent of them. He's Virginia's best threat from deep, and he's got the green light. But he's not an impulse shooter. An improved defender and rebounder, Guy at his full self is what makes Virginia elite.
4. UVA's only non-Duke loss of the season came to a team more athletic and bigger than any team in the Final Four: Virginia went undefeated against non-Duke teams in the regular season. It got booted from the ACC Tournament by a Florida State team that had its best season ever as an ACC school. FSU was one of the deepest, most experience and tallest teams in college basketball this season.
Virginia won't face any team like Duke or FSU in the Final Four. It doesn't make UVA infallible, it just makes it unlikely the Cavs get picked off. Auburn is fast but small -- and UVA has the personnel to keep up. Plus, it's not ideal for opponents that Virginia allowed more 3-point attempts than it took, yet its 3-point defense ranks third in college basketball.
Auburn and Michigan State rely on 3-point offense and perimeter movement to grease their offense. The pack line defense is built to withstand those onslaughts -- even when a guy like Carsen Edwards scores 42 points and gets 30 of them off 3-pointers.
5. A year after getting UMBC'd, this seems like destiny: A year after becoming the only No. 1 seed in history to lose to a 16, UVA is the only No. 1 seed in this Final Four. A win for Virginia would do the implausible: somehow turn the UMBC loss into a redemption story. There would still be an infamy about that defeat, but to turn back a year later and win the national title would be the best possible story this Final Four could provide.
Kihei-Clark-to-Mamadi-Diakite is already an instantly legendary March Madness highlight. UVA got its scare from Gardner-Webb in the first round, then squeezed its way down the bracket. It's yet to truly play a terrific game, which I think happens on Saturday night.
Bennett's won 176 games the past six seasons, earning a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in five of those seasons. The Wahoos finished atop the ACC in four of those years. That's the strongest run of any coach in college basketball in that span. Making the Final Four was an inevitability, and winning the national title feels like one as well for Bennett. The best team, the only No. 1 seed, the best trio of players, the top offense, all of it has built to this weekend.
A Virginia win over Michigan State or Texas Tech would close the circle on one of the all-time feel-good sports stories.
So who wins Auburn vs. Virginia? And which side of the spread can you bank on in over 50 percent of simulations? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the Auburn vs. Virginia spread to jump on, all from the advanced model that is up more than $4,000 on its college basketball picks, and find out.
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