The Final Four is basically the first major sporting event of the year. Even if you are not a die hard college basketball fan, you can’t help but get wrapped up into it due to the number of office bracket pools. Even if you don’t know who is good this year, you can generally get a way with picking two or three number one seeds and sprinkle in an upset or two in there.
North Carolina. Check. Kansas. Check. Kentucky. Check. Duke. Check. Well at least you got one of those right. Tournament staple, and perennial national championship contender, North Carolina, didn’t even make the field of sixty-five. God it pains me to have to type sixty-five. It just doesn’t fit. Kansas, led by four NBA prospects, bowed out in the second round to the University of Northern Iowa. In their elite eight matchup with West Virginia, Kentucky started out missing on their first twenty (that’s right TWENTY), 3-point shots of the game. They were on their way to shooting an unfathomable 4 of 32 from 3-point range in their loss to West Virginia. They lost by 7. But hey, at least you picked Duke to reach the Final Four.
If you were looking for that super-model, sexy looking Final Four, you’re going to have to settle for Kirstie Alley. Sorry. Michigan State (#5 seed), Butler (#5 seed), West Virginia (#2 seed) and Duke (#1 seed). If you didn’t have that Final Four in your bracket, don’t worry. Neither did the other 99.9% of America.
In the early game on Saturday, Michigan State will take on Butler. Since this year’s Final Four is being played in Indianapolis, Butler will essentially be playing at home. With their campus only about fifteen minutes away, you can expect Lucas Oil Stadium to be rockin’ for the Bulldogs. Butler carries a nation long, 24 game winning streak into the game. So if these two factors aren’t enough for Michigan State to handle, they will also be playing without their starting point guard, Junior Kalin Lucas. Lucas suffered a torn Achilles tendon in the Spartan’s second round win over Maryland. Michigan State will have to rely heavily on Coach Tom Izzo’s experience to get them to the championship game. Izzo is leading his Spartan’s to their sixth Final Four appearance since 1999. On the other hand, Butler has been slaying everyone in their path on the way to the Final Four. After going undefeated in the Horizon league (18-0), 33 year old coach Brad Stevens has led the Bulldogs past #1 seed Syracuse, and #2 seed Kansas State along the way. Home crowd, being on a total roll, looking for respect. I believe this is Butler’s game to lose. If they come out early and his 3-pointers like they have all season, this game could be over before you know it. I like Butler to play for the national championship. Butler 74 Michigan St. 65
In the second half of the double header, Coach K’s Duke Blue Devils take on the Bob Huggins lead West Virginia Mountaineers. Duke has made 15 Final Four’s, and last made it there back in 2004. West Virginia is making only its second Final Four appearance ever. The other time was all the way back in 1959, when that guy who the NBA logo is fashioned after, led them to the national championship game. In case you didn’t know who it was, it’s Jerry West. This game just feels like a Final Four type game. It’s got flavor and pizzazz. Two big time schools with big time coaches, and the love em’/hate em’ opinion that nearly every college basketball fan has for Duke. A Duke staple for the past 20 years is that they always had great guards. This year is no exception. Although Nolan Smith and John Scheyer may not be top NBA prospects, they team up with G/F Kyle Singler to form the highest scoring threesome in the college game. What is different about this Duke team is that they have three big guys who can rebound. They are the biggest Blue Devil team in years and one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country. Against Baylor, Duke ripped down 23 offensive boards, leading to 23 second-chance points. Brian Zoubek, Lance Thomas, and the Plumlee brothers are sure to give Westy V all they can handle.
Da’Sean Butler, one of the best players in college basketball, can do it all. He can score in big bunches, to the tune of over 17 ppg. He is going to be the focal point of Duke’s defense. The Mountaineers are going to need secondary scoring, like they got in their upset victory over Kentucky. Kevin Jones and Devin Ebanks will have to take it to the Duke big men and step up the scoring. With starting point guard Darryl Bryant doubtful for the rest of the tournament with a broken bone in his foot, backup guard Joe Mazzulla will have to have a big game like he did against Kentucky. His 17 points were a huge lift for West Virginia.
Having the two top remaining seeds battling it out for the right to play for the national championship, it’s going to be a close battle to the end. I like duke’s big three to take over this game in crunch time. I’ll take Duke 78 West Virginia 76