Matt Mooney's Journey to the Final Four is fantastic
Apr 09 2019
Izzo shook Beard's hand as the Red Raiders set their sights on Virginia in the final. However, like in many years, most of the 1-seeds were defeated before the Final Four. The Cavaliers are a 1-point pick, and the over/under was at 117½ and falling late Saturday night.
In their last three games, Texas Tech has held two of the most prolific offenses (Gonzaga and Buffalo) to 20 points below their season average and humbled MI to all-time levels of offensive tournament futility. The loss also ended a nine-game winning streak. It is the oldest cliché in sports but probably the one that often rings with the most truth. Maybe the Red Raiders operate better with the attention off, but the lack of attention paid to Texas Tech was disproportionate to the spectacular season that they had. The road started with a 15-point win over Northern Kentucky in the first round, 72-57.
2nd round: 78-58 vs.
While you would have thought they would be tested (and beaten) by MI in the Sweet 16, they dominated the Wolverines, 63-44.
The defeats Michigan State has endured in the Final Four over the years have come in all flavors: They've fallen as high seeds expected to do great things and low seeds that surpassed expectations, and run into buzz-saws such as Duke and Arizona that were loaded with future National Basketball Association prospects and dropped down-to-the-wire nail-biters to the likes of Gordon Hayward and Butler. Jarrett Culver leads Texas Tech in scoring and rebounds per game.
Frustrated all night by the Red Raiders' stingy defense, and unable to get guards Cassius Winston and Matt McQuaid into much rhythm, Michigan State fell once again on college basketball's grandest stage. They have held opponents to 59 points per game during the season. But it was a very sloppy turnover-filled contest.
So, not only does head coach Tom Izzo have an insanely talented roster, he has a deep one. They are going regardless whether Texas Tech advances, but they all said they have high hopes for the Red Raiders to be in the final to win it all.
"Coach talks about two things on this trip: You know, smell the roses, enjoy the trip, enjoy it all, enjoy the attention, enjoy the scene and the people", Mooney said of Beard, who calls his player "The Professor". He has scored in double figures in 35 of 36 games and is shooting 47.6 percent from the field overall and was 44.6 percent in Big 12 play.
At a time when teams routinely put up 65 or more shots a game, Texas Tech averages about 55. Michigan State is not excellent on either end of the court, but they are good on both ends.
Although their percentage chance to win the championship is less than 20 percent, they have proven to be a competent enough opponent to not be underestimated.
Beard is on his 12th stop in a travelogue of a career - and he's been recruiting grinders like him to help him take this most-unexpected ride.
The Big Ten's regular-season and tournament champions kept pecking away, including a series of free throws that nipped into Texas Tech's lead.