College basketball’s big day has finally arrived. Over the last two and a half weeks, the Sweet Sixteen became the Elite Eight, who were whittled down to the Final Four. Now, the two surviving teams of March Madness 2019 – Virginia and Texas Tech – will battle it out in tonight’s national championship game.

While we can’t predict which team will be nothing but net in tonight’s showdown, we were curious to see how the internet has been discussing the two teams ahead of the big game. We looked at data from Zignal Labs around online conversations for both teams starting just before the Final Four was decided. Here’s what we found:

Texas Strong

Mentions and sentiment data for Texas Tech.

Mentions and sentiment data for Virgina.

On the surface level, our data showed that Texas Tech was the leader in both total volume of mentions and net positive sentiment.

Geographical ping map for online conversations around Virginia and Texas Tech.

However, when looking at the geographical distribution of mentions for each team (the larger the colored spike in the map above, the higher the volume of conversation), we started to see interesting differences. Perhaps unsurprisingly, while there are a few smaller spikes scattered across the country, the majority of mentions around Texas Tech (blue) are concentrated in Texas, with the largest spike emanating from Lubbock, Texas, where the university is located.

Mentions of Virginia (green), in contrast, see a greater geographical distribution. While the largest spikes are, again, unsurprisingly located in Virginia, we can also see significant spikes appearing across the East Coast and in surrounding states, such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Wedding Registry and Referee Blues

Digging in deeper, we wanted to find what was actually being discussed in all of these conversations. With many of the conversations dominated by the usual pre-game trash-talking and speculation, we thought it would be interesting to see which players and coaches from the two teams – and the trending stories attached to them – were topping online conversations ahead of tonight’s game.

Top-mentioned players and coaches in conversations around Virginia.

Looking at conversations around Virginia basketball, junior guard Kyle Guy is far and away the most-discussed person. While many are discussing his game-winning performance in the Final Four game or his chances in the upcoming championship, the top story for him—and for all of Virginia basketball in the last few days—has been that Guy and his fiancée were forced to take down their wedding registry because it violated NCAA rules. Other stories, which discuss his personal struggle to overcome his anxiety in both life and basketball over the past few years, have also helped push him to the top spot.

The second most-discussed player is Ty Jerome, another junior guard on the Virginia team. Jerome received significant chatter after the Final Four game against Auburn this past Saturday when the referees failed to call a double-dribble violation on him in the final seconds of the game, a misstep that many Auburn fans attribute to their team losing the game. Virginia coach Tony Bennett, sophomore guard De’Andre Hunter (who gave Virginia a boost in the second half in the Final Four game), Auburn coach Bruce Pearl and Auburn junior guard Jared Harper round out the rest of the top spots for trending people in conversations around Virginia basketball, likely due to their key participation in the above-mentioned and much-discussed final seconds of the Final Four game.

Coach of the Year

Top-mentioned players and coaches in conversations around Texas Tech.

The data for conversations around Texas Tech shows that the most-mentioned person over the last week or so is Chris Beard, Texas Tech’s coach. Beard dominates the conversation because he was just named Men’s College Basketball Coach of the Year by the Associated Press. He also likely saw a little boost from another trending story around the Texas Tech team, which stated that Beard, adopting an idea borne from senior team captain Norense Odiase, had banned smartphones before games and other team activities throughout the year.

Senior guard Matt Mooney and senior starting forward Taqir Owens, both graduate transfer students to Texas Tech this year, also saw significant chatter over the last few days, in part due to a proposed NCAA rule that would restrict the number of graduate transfer students. Owens also saw increased chatter due to an ankle injury he suffered in the Final Four game last Saturday. Senior center Norense Odiase, of smartphone-ban fame, and Italian-native and sophomore guard Davide Moretti round out the rest of the top spots.

It’s interesting to note that players and coaches from the opposing final two team, as well as former Final Four challengers, such as Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and junior guard Cassius Winston, received enough mentions to take up at least half of the top spots in conversations around Virginia and Texas Tech, likely due to fans of those teams griping about their lost opportunity for college basketball glory.

If you enjoyed this piece and would like to read more data-driven insights and analysis of trending topics and events, check out our Resource Center or request a demo of the Zignal platform.