What might have been: we could be getting ready for a first-round NCAA Tournament game on Friday between Virginia and Texas Tech.
We’re going to flesh out the 2020 Big Dance here at Augusta Free Press, through the eyes of the reigning, defending, undisupted, recently undefeated national champs, because that’s how we roll.
For our guide, we’re using Resident AFP Bracketologist Seth Megginson’s final brackets, and conveniently for us, his last rendering had Virginia as the six seed in the East, with the winner of a First Four game between Richmond and Texas Tech set to meet the ‘Hoos in Greensboro.
Holy hell, how much fun this would have been.
And actually, you know the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee would have done something like this.
As much as they try to pretend that they don’t bracket for interesting matchups, I mean, come on, we all remember 2015, when a 30-3 UVA team somehow fell to the two seed line, and also somehow the Big Ten champ, Michigan State, fell all the way to seven, setting up a potential second-round matchup between teams that had played one of the better games of the 2014 tournament.
A potential Virginia-Texas Tech rematch in the Round of 64? Coincidence?
We think not.
So, here goes, what you need to know about Virginia-Texas Tech 2.0.
Getting to know the Red Raiders
Like Virginia, Texas Tech (18-13, 9-9 Big 12) had a major roster overhaul from what it put on the floor in the 2019 title game, and actually, it was much more dramatic than what Tony Bennett had to go through.
Just two of the guys that Chris Beard put on the floor in Minneapolis – guards Davide Moretti (13.0 ppg, 41.9% FG, 38.3% 3FG) and Kyler Edwards (11.4 ppg, 40.4% FG, 32.2% 3FG) – were back for 2019-2020.
It was an up-and-down season for the Red Raiders – a three-game losing streak in November, a win over Louisville in early December that jumpstarted a five-game winning streak, after which they were basically a .500 team, finishing with a four-game skid.
That’s why Seth had them as a First Four participant.
Beard tightened to a seven-man rotation. His leading scorer is another guard, 6’4” freshman Jahmi’us Ramsey (15.0 ppg, 44.2% FG, 42.6% 3FG), who is a dynamic scorer at two.
Moretti gets the bulk of minutes at one, backed up by 6’6” senior Chris Clarke (5.6 ppg, 6.6 rebs/g, 4.6 assists/g).
And in case you’re wondering, yes, I’m talking that Chris Clarke, the guy who played for three seasons at Virginia Tech before being suspended and leaving the program.
Had to do a doubletake to think of that kid – at 6’6”, 220 – running the point.
Edwards is your three, with 6’6” freshman Kevin McCullar (6.0 ppg, 51.2% FG, 28.6% 3FG) at four.
6’8” senior T.J. Holyfield (8.9 ppg, 4.5 rebs/g, 53.6% FG, 34.9% 3FG) starts at five, with 6’6” freshman Terrence Shannon (9.8 ppg, 4.1 rebs/g, 47.0% FG, 25.7% 3FG) getting minutes at four and five.
You can see from the size that Beard went four-guard an awful lot, basically playing positionless basketball, with his leading rebounder and assist man being his backup point guard, in Clark, and his points coming from his three-guard combo in Ramsey, Moretti and Edwards.
How Virginia matches up
It’s a challenge for 7’1” junior Jay Huff (8.5 ppg, 6.2 rebs/g, 57.1% FG, 35.8% 3FG) to stay on the floor against smaller lineups, but he played good defense against stretch fours down the stretch this season, and that’s good, because Tony Bennett needs him on the floor for his offense.
6’9” senior Mamadi Diakite (13.7 ppg, 6.8 rebs/g, 47.8% FG, 36.4% 3FG) can play threes, fours and fives defensively, so his versatility on that end is a big plus in matchups like this one.
5’9” sophomore guard Kihei Clark (10.8 ppg, 5.9 assists/g, 4.2 rebs/g, 37.5% 3FG) has a heart of stone, but I’m not breaking any news there.
Clark had three points and four assists in 33 minutes in the 2019 championship game. Diakite put up nine points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes, with two blocks, including a big one late in the OT.
6’8” senior Braxton Key (9.9 ppg, 7.4 rebs/g, 43.5% FG) helped get the game to the OT with a block of Texas Tech star Jarrett Culver on the final play of regulation.
Key had six points and a game-high 10 rebounds in 28 minutes in the title game, which he helped salt away with a breakaway dunk in the final seconds.
Story by Chris Graham