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In The End, The 2019 NCAA Tournament Is About Defense

And what a spectacular night of defense we got from all four teams

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Auburn v Virginia
Wishful thinking from Auburn’s Bryce Brown as Kyle Guy prepares to give Auburn an epic gutting from the line.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Saturday’s games, in very different ways, were spectacular. Both were tense and powerful affairs but only Virginia-Auburn will live with controversy.

It really shouldn’t though.

First was the question of whether or not Ty Jerome double-dribbled. Well he did - or would have if he had not been fouled first.

Bryce Brown clearly pushed Jerome and in fact the push may have knocked him back which may have led to the ball bouncing off of his heel.

This came right after Samir Doughty fouled with :05 left - Brown’s came with :02 - and the goal was to keep Virginia from getting a three point shot off which could win the game.

The last foul, when Doughty fouled Kyle Guy as he launched a three from the corner, was unquestionably a foul. You can tell because Guy can’t come down straight. Brown, with his hands down to avoid fouling, still hit him with his lower body. He did the same thing on Guy’s previous shot from the other corner. He didn’t even put his hands up because he didn’t want to chance a foul.

You can argue that you shouldn’t call that foul at that point in the game and that’s one thing. But very few people are arguing that there wasn’t contact because the proof is there. Doughty bumped him and it affected Guy while he was in the air. There’s literally no argument about it.

Of course he hit all three shots and put UVA up one with 0.6 left on the clock. Auburn still nearly got a shot off which would have been madness.

The shame of it was that Auburn had pulled off a rare comeback against the Cavaliers. They were down 10 with 5:03 left and were actually up 60-57 with 0:17 left.

As ACC fans know though, it’s hard to kill Virginia. They are an amazing program and a difficult one to beat.

In all the controversy there is one point that has been consistently overlooked: Jared Harper had a one-and-one with 0:07 left and Auburn up by one.

He split.

If he had hit them both, at the least, Auburn would have taken Virginia into overtime.

It’s easy to blame the refs but the reality is that Harper had the game in his hands and let it go.

When Guy had it in his, he nailed his free throws.

When you look at it dispassionately, Auburn made three key mistakes: a missed free throw, a missed attempt at an intentional foul and a foul that was not intended but which was, unquestionably, a foul.

Some people complained about the nightcap being boring. Well forget them.

Texas Tech put on a defensive tour de force. They were incredible. We thought UVA was the best defensive team in the nation but at this point we can’t realistically say that. Texas Tech was beyond belief.

It wasn’t just that they were in the right spots and did the right things. It’s how freaking hard they worked.

The Red Raiders played as hard as any team we can recall. They are a brilliant defensive team.

The score on Monday might be 43-29 but don’t let that fool you. Watch the effort. Watch the heart. Watch how relentless - and how well conditioned - this team is.

We thought Virginia would win Monday. Now we’re not so sure.

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