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TNIAAM Final Four open thread

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Ignore the Michigan State logo in the background there... we’re not interested in pulling for the Spartans.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Practice Day Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team isn’t in this year’s Final Four, so you may not even care about this weekend’s proceedings in Minneapolis. But just in case you do, we wanted to give you a place to talk about the games, how Michigan State doesn’t deserve anything good, how Virginia might embarrass themselves on a national stage this time around, or how Bruce Pearl’s not the most admirable guy in the world.

So basically, you’re rooting for Texas Tech.

Saturday’s games start at 6:09 p.m. ET, with the Virginia Cavaliers and Auburn Tigers. Then the Texas Tech Red Raiders take on the Michigan State Spartans at around 8:49 p.m. ET. Both of those games appear on CBS, with streaming options available on March Madness Live.

Beyond the easy summaries of each team above, here’s a bit more about the matchups, too:

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Practice Day Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia vs. Auburn

Virginia’s the first team to lose to a 16-seed, then play in the Final Four the following year. As always, the Hoos’ defense is what’s grabbed the headlines, but Virginia’s offense could be what potentially gets them to the championship game against Auburn. UVA was about to lose to Purdue in the Elite 8 before a last-second shot forced overtime where they collected an 80-75 win. While they’re not a high-scoring bunch, they’re still the second-most efficient offense in the country. And as we know from experience, they could just hit 75 percent of their threes or something ridiculous like that.

On the Auburn side of things, they pretty much come in on fire. The Tigers have won 12 straight games including the SEC Tournament and obviously the NCAAs, scoring over 77 points per games in these past four wins. While scoring 97 points against UNC, they shot 45 percent from three and nearly 55 percent overall. Even taking a decent step back against a stronger defensive team like Kentucky, they still outlasted them by way of a good-enough shooting performance. This should actually be a really entertaining game.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Practice Day Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State vs. Texas Tech

After getting tested by Bradley in the first round, MSU coasted by Minnesota and LSU before just squeaking by Duke to make the Final Four — and all of that after spending most of Selection Sunday complaining about their draw compared to rival Michigan’s. This Spartans club isn’t as good as some of the previous versions that have failed to make it this far. But they’re fundamentally sound on both offense and defense, have beaten great teams and seem uniquely equipped for different styles of game. Tom Izzo just trips and falls into a Final Four every five years and we’ll see if this winds up being another one of those inconsequential appearances (save the 1999 title, of course).

On the Texas Tech side, Chris Beard’s remade the Red Raiders on the fly over the past three seasons — going from a Big 12 also-ran to a defensive juggernaut predicated on quality guard play and slowing the game down. That said, their style doesn’t make you hate things the same way UVA’s does (maybe that’s just because of SU fans’ own dislike for the Hoos) and it was genuinely enjoyable to see them get here over Gonzaga. Upstart programs don’t usually win much in college sports, but this one has the right veteran pieces (and again, defense) to get it done.

Enjoy the games, and leave your relevant (and not-so-relevant) comments below.