1. Those ‘other guy’ guards
Kyle Guy was Virginia’s All-America guard and hit the game-winning free throws to lead his team to the school’s first NCAA title game. But Ty Jerome had team highs with 21 points, nine rebounds and six assists Saturday for the Cavaliers, who were outscored 12-0 when he left the game with four fouls in the second half. Michigan State vs. Texas Tech was supposed to be a matchup between Big Ten player of the year Cassius Winston vs. Big 12 player of the year Jarrett Culver, but instead a couple of guys named Matt took over early. McQuaid had nine of the Spartans’ first 14 points. Mooney ended up stealing the show with his barrage of three-pointers in the second half.
2. Two and done
No Duke meant a lack of one-and-done star power without Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett. They didn’t leave college after their freshmen year, but the two best NBA prospects at the Final Four are sophomores Jarrett Culver of Texas Tech and De’Andre Hunter of Virginia. Culver missed his first seven shots of the game before scoring seven of the last nine points to sink Michigan State. Hunter made his presence felt Saturday with eight of the Cavaliers’ first 12 points in the second half, while also holding Bryce Brown to just 12 points.
3. Live by the 3, die by the 3
This year’s NCAA tournament had set a record for most three-pointers with 975 even before Saturday. Not all teams live behind the line, but Auburn certainly did for most of the season with the second-most threes in Division I history at 445. The Tigers led 31-28 at halftime Saturday shooting just 3-for-14 from beyond the arc. They heated up with six in the second half, but they still shot just 29 percent. Five of the last six field goals in the first game were three-pointers, but the last one came from Virginia — a team much less reliant on long-range shots.
4. Doing the dirty work
This Final Four is definitely guard-heavy with eight all-conference players spread across the teams, including three All-America picks. But don’t forget about the guys who get down and dirty in the paint trying to defend the rim. Virginia’s Mamadi Diakite scored just one basket, but he grabbed five rebounds and had five of his team’s nine blocked shots against Auburn. Texas Tech’s Tariq Owens missed some time with an injury late in the game, but he had three blocks, a steal and even more deflections and altered shots with his 7-4 wingspan.
5. So much for experience
Redshirt senior Kenny Goins was the only player here to previously make the Final Four, doing so with the Spartans in 2015. He spent time talking to younger players about what to expect and how to prepare. But his experience didn’t pay off Saturday. Goins, who buried a late three-pointer to beat Duke in the Elite Eight, went scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting (all threes) in 33 minutes. The last time Goins was scoreless was in a 79-55 win Feb. 9 vs. the Gophers, because he played just seven minutes after hurting his elbow.