Virginia vs. Texas Tech: Don’t Expect Much Scoring

The N.C.A.A. men’s basketball final on Monday night looks like a close contest; some people are picking Virginia, while others like Texas Tech.

But there’s one prediction everyone agrees on: It will be a low-scoring game.

Bookmakers have set the game’s over/under — a guess as to how many total points will be scored — at somewhere between 117 and 119. That will be the lowest over/under since at least the early 1990s, as far back as data is available.

The 2006 Florida-U.C.L.A. game and the 2010 Duke-Butler games were the previous low over/unders, a full 10 points higher at 128, reports. The Florida game ended with 130 points scored and the Duke game with 120 total. Only three times since 1991 has the final game gone under 118.

The reason for the low total this year is the identity of the finalists. Both of them play stifling defense.

Texas Tech ranked first in N.C.A.A. Division I in defense, allowing only 86.5 points per 100 possessions. Virginia ranked sixth. Texas Tech allowed opposing teams to shoot just 36.8 percent from the field, also the best in Division I. Virginia was fifth.

The effect of the outstanding defenses will be compounded by Virginia’s glacial style of play: For the fourth year in a row, Virginia played at the slowest pace in the nation, 60.8 possessions per 40 minutes. (In contrast, North Carolina had 75.9 possessions and Duke 73.2. Does that sound like a more appetizing final?)

This expectation of a low-scoring game may seem incongruous in an era of high-scoring games in both college and the N.B.A., helped along by an increase in 3-point shooting.

But neither of Monday’s finalists especially likes the long ball: Virginia took a 3-pointer on 40 percent of its shots, ranking 153rd out of Of 353 Division I teams. Texas Tech was at 36 percent, for 256th. Villanova (54 percent, ranked third) or Auburn (49 percent) would have provided a more exciting show from distance.

The lowest-scoring final of recent times came in 2011, when Connecticut beat Butler, 53-41. The New York Times proclaimed in a headline that “Connecticut and Butler Saved the Worst for Last.”

The statistics seem to suggest we could be in for a repeat.

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