DEFENSE, DEFENSE, DEFENSE, was the only thing the crowd could chant for the first few minutes of this national title game. The Red Raiders and Cavaliers used the first two minutes of the game feeling out the other’s defense. Sloppy near turnover-riddled sequences spilled about the court as Mamadi Diakite sunk the first shot of the night. Jarrett Culver’s foul-drawing charge to the basket set the tone for Tech’s offensive tone.
As the two teams settled into their grooves, the exchange of scoring runs began. In the end, Virginia would bring back their first national championship to Charlottesville.
Now we’ve had a few hours for the game to digest here are three takeaways from Monday night’s national championship game.
The defensive battle
Two of the nations best defenses take a contrasting approach to the less glamorous side of the court. Texas Tech’s renegade style is fueled by the length and athleticism its roster possesses. Using their natural gifts they pressured Virginia full court failing to speed them up. However, they could force tough shots all night and win the turnover battle.
Virginia system based stifled Tech’s offense in first half. The lack of elite shot creators hampered the Red Raiders as UVA’s pack-line defense did its thing. They neutralized most efforts by Culver leaving him with just 3 points at halftime, as he shot 0-6 and 0-3 in overtime.
One heck of a Road
This Virginia team made history in back-to-back years in two drastic ways. Virtually the same team from last season loss to a 16 seed, the first time in tournament history only to rebound with a national championship. Yet, the slow-paced Cavaliers played in two instant classic game against a strong Purdue team and a Cinderella-like Auburn team. They didn’t play toughest teams by BPI but in a game where speed is a dominant factor; they fought through a field of teams that like to get up and down the court.
Combined the two schools had 4 2019 NBA draft hopefuls, two of which are lottery hopefuls. Each showed why scouts are interested in their play by performing well on the largest stage the NCAA has the offer.
The lowest projected draft pick of all had an electric game winning the most outstanding player award. He scored 24 points while shooting 4-9 from the three-point line. From the opening tip, his shot-making pushed Virginia through their slow start. His shooting stroke will be a valuable asset at this next level even if he doesn’t bring much upside in any other category.
Jerome stuffed the stat sheet for Virginia giving them 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists. As de facto ball handler, his playmaking and ability to create his own shot. He has a dangerous feel to his game when he’s off ball knocking down 1 of his 2 three-pointers. Jerome is a combo guard who will play from the jump in sparing minutes.
Hunter nearly dropped a 27 point double-double against a top tier defense. The 6’7” combo forward wastes no time getting shots up missing his first three shots from the field. Once his nerves were settled his shots began to fall from all three levels going 4-5 from three. Hunter proves what’s been said of him all season he’s a big switchable body that stretches the floor and plays elite defense.
The bell of the ball of this group stuffed the stat with 15 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists for the game. Much like his last three outing Culver didn’t shoot well from the field but turned his game when his team needed him most. He played a major part in Texas Tech’s run to close the gap in after the break. His defensive instincts and athleticism displayed his entire 41-minute outing but so did his shooting warts. He’ll be the high pick prospect of the bunch and his tools back up most scouts projections.