Which Final Four progams have complementary strengths and weaknesses to their football teams?
Before earning a trip to the Final Four for the first time in school history, Texas Tech's basketball team earned a visit from new Texas Tech football coach Matt Wells, who passed along some effusive praise from his staff to Red Raiders assistant coach and defensive specialist Mark Adams, according to SI's Greg Bishop. Wells's task this year is turning around a football program that has been defined by its all-offense, no-defense approach; his hoops counterpart Chris Beard has led the Red Raiders to Minneapolis by snapping his team out of an all-defense, no-offense stretch that nearly threatened its Big 12 title chances.
It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes a program’s basketball and football teams can complement each other perfectly and this year, Texas Tech is a prime example.
Here’s a look at some other Final Four teams, past and present, who were completed by their football counterparts:
Texas Tech 2018-19
In three years, Beard has built the country’s stingiest defense rated, No. 1 in adjusted efficiency, per kenpom. The Red Raiders, which also had a fearsome defense in last year’s Elite Eight run, are blocking 4.9 shots per game (eighth-best in the country), forcing turnovers and holding opponents to low shooting percentages. In a 75-69 win, Tech kept Gonzaga, the nation’s top-scoring offense, well below the 87.6 points per game and .526 field goal percentage it posted this season.
The Red Raiders football program is a perennial top 20 scoring offense, and in Kliff Kingsbury’s final season in Lubbock last fall, they scored 37.2 points per game while racking up nearly 500 yards of offense each week. Meanwhile, the defense was ranked No. 108, Tech failed to make a bowl game and Kingsbury was fired.
After nearly getting bounced in the first round by New Mexico State, Auburn clobbered basketball giants Kansas and North Carolina before edging Kentucky in overtime. Bruce Pearl has a veteran team that KenPom has rated as the sixth-most efficient offense. Bryce Brown (16 ppg) and Bryce Brown (15.4) are consistent offensive threats and combined for 50 of the team’s 77 points against the Wildcats in the Elite Eight, compensating well in the absence of injured star Chuma Okeke.
Last fall, the Tigers had the college football’s No. 14 scoring defense, which limited teams to 19.2 ppg, surrendered only nine rushing touchdowns all year and allowed opponents to convert on third down just under 35% of the time. But a porous offensive line scuttled Gus Malzahn's schemes and kept the Tigers' SEC hopes from ever getting off the ground. Auburn went 8-5 with losses to LSU, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. But, Auburn finished the year by crushing Purdue in the Music City Bowl.
This was the hard-nosed Badgers team that knocked off undefeated Kentucky in the Final Four. Wisconsin would go onto lose to Duke in the national title game, but finished the season with an adjusted offensive efficiency rating of 129.0, per KenPom, which was the highest of any team ever. Bo Ryan’s swing offense was led by Naismith Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky, who led the Badgers in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. He was the ninth overall pick in the ensuing NBA draft.
That fall, Wisconsin football went 11-3. And despite having an offense anchored by running back Melvin Gordon, the Badgers were defined by a top-five defense that limited opponents to 294.1 yards per game on 4.9 yards per play. Wisconsin was blown out by Ohio State 59–0 in the Big Ten championship game, but beat Auburn in overtime in the Outback Bowl.
North Carolina 2008-09
The 2009 Tar Heels beat Michigan State to win the program’s fifth national title with KenPom’s No. 1 rated offense. Led by Tyler Hansbrough, who came back for his senior year, Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson and Danny Green, North Carolina scored 89.8 points per game. UNC was exceptionally dominant in the NCAA tournament, winning six games by an average of 20.1 points.
Meanwhile, North Carolina football, then coached by Butch Davis, went 8-5 (4-4 in the ACC) and lost to West Virginia in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. But it did have the nation’s No. 13 scoring defense, which sent players like Quinton Coples, Da'Norris Searcy and Robert Quinn to the NFL.