Final Four 2019: Road To Minneapolis Logo


Final Four 2019: Road To Minneapolis

News and updates from Minneapolis and across college basketball as the game’s biggest stage comes to U.S. Bank Stadium, April 6 and 8, 2019.

Michigan State tops very early Final Four projections for 2020

It's less than 24 hours since the Virginia Cavaliers defeated Texas Tech to cut down the nets at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, officially ending the 2018-19 college basketball season.

You can bet Virginia fans everywhere won't be looking ahead anytime soon, but it's not too early for the rest of us to think about which teams could be in the Final Four in Atlanta in 2020.  

The Spartans, who are already projected No. 1 in several way-too-early top 25 rankings for 2019-20, lead my list of top contenders to win tha national title a year from now.

Michigan State – Tom Izzo extended the Big Ten’s title drought to 20 years after losing to Texas Tech at the Final Four in Minneapolis this year. Still, the Spartans might have a better team next season. Big Ten player of the year Cassius Winston could be one of four returning starters, including Nick Ward, Xavier Tillman and Aaron Henry. Josh Langford's full recovery from an ankle injury adds another starter.

Michigan – John Beilein had no senior starters, but the Wolverines coach will be looking intently at what happens in the NBA draft process. Charles Matthews, Jordan Poole and Iggy Brazdeikis all declared early Tuesday for the draft and hired agents, which the NCAA now allows as long as they separate from the agent on May 29. Brazdeikis and Zavier Simpson were All-Big Ten players.

Duke – Apple Valley native Tre Jones’ decision return for his sophomore year changes the outlook significantly. One-and-Dones Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett dominated the offense, but it’ll be better when everything runs through Jones. Rochester John Marshall's Matthew Hurt is projected to join fellow McDonald’s All-Americans Vernon Carey and Wendell Moore with the Blue Devils.

Virginia – The defending champions are a threat to get back to the Final Four, especially if juniors Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy return in the backcourt. Jerome is a late first-round projected NBA draft pick. De’Andre Hunter has lottery potential. But even if Guy, Kihei Clark, Mamadi Diakite and Braxton Key are back that gives Tony Bennett a solid core that helped win the NCAA title Monday.

Other teams: Kentucky, Auburn, Marquette

Threes, tortillas flying in first half of Texas Tech-Virginia

It seemed possible, given how effective both Virginia and Texas Tech's defenses have been through the NCAA tournament, that Monday night's national championship game could hinge on how effective both teams were from beyond the three-point arc. Through 20 minutes of the title game, outside shooting has been the lifeblood of both teams' offenses.

Both Virginia -- which is shooting 45.5 percent from three-point territory -- and Texas Tech (41.7 percent) have been more effective from three-point territory than they have on two-point shots (38.8 and 25 percent), respectively. After opening the game 1-for-11 from the floor, the Red Raiders hit seven of their final 13 field goals of the first half, connecting on five first-half threes to erase a 10-point deficit. Virginia's Ty Jerome hit a three-pointer just before halftime to break a 29-29 tie, and the Cavaliers led 32-29 through the first half.

While the three-pointers landed, though, Texas Tech's longstanding student tradition of throwing tortillas at major sporting events had to stop.

After officials stopped the game in the first half and fans were warned not to throw objects on the court, several members of the Red Raiders' student section stood on their chairs, imploring fellow students not to throw more tortillas on the court and reminding them they could risk a technical foul for the Red Raiders if they didn't stop.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, former Vikings coach Bud Grant, former Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau and NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes -- a Texas Tech product who again flexed for the cameras in the first half, as he did on Saturday night -- were among the notable figures in attendance.