CHAMPIONSHIP MONDAY PREDICTIONS BY THE STAR TRIBUNE SPORTS STAFF
Some of us had never covered a Virginia or Texas Tech basketball game until Saturday night. Most of us, actually. (So you should definitely bet a lot of money on our picks. ...) But, we have written and edited thousands of words about basketball in recent days, so we decided that makes us Star Tribuners qualified to offer up 18 predictions on Monday night’s national championship game.
After Saturday’s crazy win, maybe Virginia has used up all its luck. Or maybe that’s proof that the Cavaliers are charmed. If you truly believe March Madness is magical, doesn’t it have to be the latter?
Pick: Virginia 65, Texas Tech 62
Assistant sports editor
A UVA-bleeding kin, who drew a sizable crowd at my daughter’s wedding with his phone showing the final seconds of the Cavaliers’ Elite Eight escape, said Saturday night via text, “You play with the refs you’ve got.” Who am I to argue?
Pick: Virginia 55, Texas Tech 50
Tech coach Chris Beard stakes his claim as the best coach in the country and Jarrett Culver, emboldened by a strong finish to an erratic offensive semifinal performance, takes charge in the final minutes.
Pick: Texas Tech 56, Virginia 52
Something about the way the Red Raiders handle themselves sticks out. They practice hard. They play hard. And that defense — my goodness. Virginia will struggle to find twine, but Kyle Guy heaves a last-second three to hit the over. If you’re into that sort of thing.
Pick: Texas Tech 62, Virginia 59
Someone who was in the arena for the conclusion of North Carolina State’s escape-filled, logic-defying championship run in 1983 with a victory over Phi Slama Jama probably should not be saying this, but Virginia has used up all of its luck in its past two ridiculous victories.
Pick: Texas Tech 58, Virginia 54
Given how good both these defenses are at keeping opponents out of the lane, this one could come down to outside shooting. Virginia is the seventh-best three-point shooting team in the country, and a big shot will put the Cavaliers over the top Monday.
Pick: Virginia 61, Texas Tech 58
Despite being a three-seed, Texas Tech has played like a top seed throughout the tournament. Virginia, an actual No. 1, is here after close calls vs. lesser teams. So the better team (right now) wins.
Pick: Texas Tech 65, Virginia 59
Jay St. Pierre
Sports design editor
This pick has nothing to do with talent — just the fact that my legal birth name was Jerome St. Pierre Jr. I jumped on the UVA bandwagon in January after discovering Ty Jerome and realizing how much of a kick I get out of seeing “Jerome” on the back of a jersey.
Pick: Virginia 65, Texas Tech 61
It won’t be pretty, but it should still be a close, riveting battle, between two schools starving for a title. Tony Bennett comes close, but Chris Beard establishes himself as a coaching star.
Pick: Texas Tech 57, Virginia 56
Assistant sports editor
Texas Tech surprised me with its versatility. Virginia’s meltdown late against Auburn was a mystery — it was lucky to win. The Red Raiders will use their poise to gain an unexpected title.
Pick: Texas Tech 72, Virginia 67
Both teams will be more comfortable on the big stage inside the big building. The cavernous space between the backboards and back walls won’t be as strange for all these shooters Monday. Tech hits a few more in the end.
Pick: Texas Tech 74, Virginia 68
A low-scoring game is inevitable with two of the best defensive teams in college basketball. Texas Tech will make it tough for Virginia’s shooters, but the Cavaliers will get enough clutch shots from Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome to complete their redemption.
Pick: Virginia 62, Texas Tech 59
Assistant sports editor
At about 8:25 p.m. Monday, a Virginia player will try a move against Texas Tech. It will be a move that usually works. It will not work against Texas Tech.
Pick: Texas Tech 60, Virginia 57
There are no guarantees what kind of game we are going to get, but it’s hard to go against conventional wisdom here. Both defenses are very good, and possessions will be long. Texas Tech matches up very well and will win a close, low-scoring game.
Pick: Texas Tech 57, Virginia 54
Two of the best defensive teams in the country will make for an ugly game. Virginia has been getting lucky, Texas Tech has been more dominant.
Texas Tech 55, Virginia 49
I refuse to pick against Old Town Road as a rally song, so it has to be the Red Raiders. Plus, I want to see Lubbock party itself into the ground.
Pick: Texas Tech 67, Virginia 64
Devastated by the biggest upset in NCAA tournament history last year, the Cavs now have destiny on their side after consecutive crazy end-of-game sequences: the buzzer-beater vs. Purdue and Guy’s free throws vs. Auburn.
Pick: Virginia 62, Texas Tech 60
Texas Tech impressed me so much Saturday in mostly shutting down Michigan State’s excellent guard Cassius Winston. The Red Raiders are tremendous on defense, and they are as good offensively as Virginia.
Pick: Texas Tech 69, Virginia 62