Coming into the season, expectations for the Texas Tech Red Raiders were not very high. They were picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 preseason poll, and did not receive a single vote in the USA Today preseason coaches poll.
Yet here they are, facing Virginia in the NCAA Tournament’s national championship game Monday night (CBS, 9 p.m. ET).
“We’re not supposed to be here, man,” leading scorer Jarrett Culver told ESPN after advancing to the Final Four. “It’s unbelievable. It’s for sure a blessing.”
Culver recently told The Athletic that his relationship with Christ plays a big role in his life. “Before games, I’m praying and reading my Bible. It’s a routine now. I feel like God is with me on the court, and He protects me. It’s big for me,” Culver said.
Another major reason for the Red Raiders’ run has been the play of guard Matt Mooney, who’s scored 39 points over the last two games, including a game-high 22 in Saturday’s Final Four win over Michigan State. Mooney told reporters after the game that he used Joshua 1:9 as inspiration, as a friend had texted it to him and he’d seen it in his devotional.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” — Joshua 1:9
“I was just thinking on that verse, like, it’s time to be strong and courageous,” Mooney said. “It’s time to step up.”
Matt Mooney's 22 points led #TexasTech to it's first ever National Championship.
— Jon Sokoloff (@JonSokoloff) April 7, 2019
Following a year at Air Force and two at South Dakota, Mooney decided to transfer for his final season of eligibility. He looked to the Holy Spirit for guidance on where to go, ultimately deciding on Texas Tech.
“It’s a God thing,” Mooney told ESPN. “When I was trying to make my decision, I had a gut feeling, and it was the Holy Spirit telling me go to Texas Tech. I never could’ve imagined this right now. I’m just so grateful.”
The national championship game will feature both schools making their first-ever national championship game appearance in men’s basketball. For Texas Tech, a win would mark just the second national title in school history, as only the school’s women’s basketball program has won an NCAA national championship (1993).
— Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver feels God is with him while leading Red Raiders to Final Four
— Baylor’s Chloe Jackson points to God as she earns Most Outstanding Player of Women’s Final Four
— Auburn coach Bruce Pearl says ‘God’s blessed us all year long’ after heartbreaking Final Four loss
— Virginia guard Kyle Guy relying on his faith in the Lord as he leads Cavaliers to Final Four
— Virginia coach Tony Bennett follows father’s faith-filled footsteps into Final Four
— Michigan State’s Joshua Langford leads through his faith while sidelined with injury
— Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams led heartfelt locker room prayer over seniors after final game