MINNEAPOLIS — They might not combine for 100 points on Monday night. Seriously.
After a Saturday full of defensive artistry, the Rembrandt and Pollock of this college basketball moment will meet on the game's biggest stage, in the national title game.
Virginia has been known for the defense for years now. Tony Bennett has built this program around his pack line defense, often holding opponents to their season-low in points. In fact, a full ten times this year, they've held a team under 50 points.
Texas Tech -- in many ways more than just defense -- is the new kid on the block. But Chris Beard has built this system rapidly, taking concepts from his mentors Bob Knight and Pat Knight, and turned Tech into the best defense in America in 2018-19.
If you're a big college hoops fan, you've heard of Ken Pomeroy. If you're not, bear with me for a moment. He tabulates next-level stats about all 353 college basketball teams. Of those 353, Texas Tech ranks #1 in adjusted defensive efficiency. What that means, for the uninitiated, is that Tech allows a national-best 83.3 points per 100 possessions.
#2 in that metric is Michigan. They're THREE POINTS worse than Tech, at 86.2, and every other team in the nation, including Virginia, is at 88 points per 100 possesions, or worse. And 88, believe me, is really stinkin' good. (For reference, Virginia ranks 5th in that metric, at 88.7 points per 100 possessions.)
What's crazy, though, is that Tech's number of 83.3 is the best that Pomeroy has ever recorded, in 18 years worth of tabulating his stats. Which is to say, Tech has -- at least -- the best defense this century.
What's all this mean? Well, it means their isn't going to be a whole lot of offense on Monday night. Tech held Michigan State to a season-low 51 points on Saturday night, and just 31.9% shooting. Virginia was only slightly less stingy, allowing Auburn to shoot 38.2%.
If you're not a big college basketball fan, sure, maybe this isn't the national title game for you.
But man, if you can appreciate the beauty of defense played at an absurdly high level -- you might not find a better title game than this one.