Franklin: Get to Know Every Starter in the Final Four
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Bryce Brown, Malik Dunbar and Horace Spencer
- Before betting on the Final Four matchups Saturday, you might want to get to know the players a bit better.
- Drew Franklin breaks down the starters from each of the four remaining teams.
It is the Final Four we all predicted. The four best teams in college basketball. Michigan State and Texas Tech in one semifinal. Virginia and Auburn in the other. College basketball’s grand prize is on the line and only one of those four teams will be left standing when NCAA president Mark Emmert hands over the hardwood late Monday night, once the confetti has fallen from the ceiling of U.S. Bank Stadium.
I would love to tell you the team that will be there in the end; unfortunately, I do not possess that kind of fortune-telling power. I do, however, know a little bit about all five starters on each team, which may be beneficial in how you make your picks and watch the games.
Ty Jerome: Jerome leads Virginia in scoring in the tournament at 15.5 points per game. He went for 24 with seven assists in the Elite 8 win over Purdue.
Kyle Guy: Guy, Virginia’s leading scorer on the season, got engaged to his longtime girlfriend over a year ago, but the NCAA told him he cannot have a gift registry if he wants to keep his eligibility. He may not be getting any wedding gifts, but he did lead the ACC in 3-pointers.
De’Andre Hunter: Hunter is Virginia’s best NBA prospect, currently projected as a fringe top-five pick this summer. He is a versatile, do-it-all forward and may be the difference-maker in the semifinal game against Auburn, considering the mismatch he presents.
Mamadi Diakite: Diakite is the guy with the blond hair who hit the buzzer-beater to keep Virginia’s Final Four hopes alive. Jack Salt started most of the year in this spot, but Diakite took his place in the last three games. He had a career-high 11 rebounds in the Sweet 16 win over Oregon.
Kihei Clark: Virginia is only in the Final Four because Clark was smart enough to push the ball up to Diakite for the buzzer-beater, rather than attempting a halfcourt shot, against Purdue in the Elite 8. Unsung hero for the Wahoos.
Jared Harper: Harper is in on 38% of Auburn’s scoring through either points or assists. I cannot look at him without seeing Marlo Stanfield from The Wire.
Bryce Brown: Brown leads the country with 44 made 3-pointers in transition. His 137 3-pointers on the season is a school record at Auburn (great value on Brown as Final Four’s leading scorer at +600).
Malik Dunbar: Auburn is 11-1 with Malik Dunbar in the starting lineup. Auburn is only 19-8 when he is not. Maybe Bruce Pearl should start Malik Dunbar more often.
Horace Spencer: Spencer is expected to start for only the third time this season. You may recognize him as the guy who attempted the potential game-winning 3-pointer at the end of regulation against Kentucky, when Bryce Brown was open and begging for the ball. It was not a pretty attempt and he is lucky the Tigers survived in OT.
Anfernee McLemore: McLemore’s mother’s name is Cinderella. Cinderella, like a team that advances far past expectations in the NCAA Tournament. Like Auburn.