Georgia sophomore Rayshaun Hammonds holds a ball on the sidelines as he watches his teammates warm up because he was out on an injury. The University of Georgia men’s basketball team hosted Missouri on senior night to fall with a final score of 64-39 in Athens, Georgia on March 6, 2019. (Photo/ Kathryn Skeean)

Collin Huguley, Sports Editor

Pick: Michigan State

Michigan State slayed the Zion Williamson dragon against Duke in the Elite Eight, and head coach Tom Izzo has lived up to his ‘Mr. March’ mantra. Spartans star point guard Cassius Winston is the best player in the Final Four and will complete his storybook season with a national title. Michigan State’s toughness, rebounding and great point guard play will be enough to get it past Texas Tech’s tenacious defense before the Spartans down Virginia for the title. Izzo’s second championship will add to his already Hall of Fame career, as he will enter a pantheon of legendary coaches that have won multiple national titles. This year’s Spartans represent some of the best of college basketball. They have experience, with some freshman contributors, and have overcome a slew of injuries to reach the pinnacle of the sport. And like he did against Duke, Winston will finish the job with two more heroic performances to seal the title.

Janey Murray, Assistant Sports Editor

Pick: Virginia

I’m sticking with my original pick of Virginia to win the national championship. The Cavaliers have been through a lot throughout the tournament, and the way they pulled out a win against Purdue in the Elite Eight makes me think they’d be really tough for anyone to beat. Virginia takes down a Chuma Okeke-less Auburn, as the magic finally runs out for the Tigers in the Final Four matchup. Then, the Cavaliers meet Michigan State on April 8 in Minneapolis for a shot at the national title. While Virginia’s defense is what’s brought it to this point, the Cavaliers have improved on the offensive end and got the job done against Purdue. Virginia’s defense shuts down Michigan State and the Cavalier offense scores enough to win the game and secure the first national championship in program history. Tony Bennett secures the title, while Tom Izzo falls short of his second national championship, and Virginia responds to last year’s upset loss to UMBC in the best way possible.

Henry Queen, Assistant Sports Editor

Pick: Auburn

This is the first time Auburn has ever been to the Final Four. I’m predicting that the Tigers will also win it all for the first time. It’s nearly impossible to stop Jared Harper and Bryce Brown. Since the start of the SEC tournament, Harper has an 88% free throw percentage. He also scored 26 points in the team’s overtime win against Kentucky on March 31. As a team, the Tigers average 12.3 3-pointers per game in the tournament. There is no reason to think Auburn’s hot hand behind the arc will stop as soon as it arrives in Minneapolis. Chuma Okeke’s injury might be tough to overcome but expect the Tigers to beat Virginia in the semifinals and Michigan State in the final for Bruce Pearl’s crowning achievement as a head coach. With the win, Pearl will claim his place among the nation’s elite coaches after a long, winding road to the Final Four.

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