Two weeks of some of the best tournament games in the history of the NCAA tournament and we are down to four teams. We’re going to take a look at two of the final three games and my take, despite the Final Four odds. Of course, if you are like most people, your bracket is probably toast at this point.
Michigan State vs. Butler: On one side we have old reliable, Michigan State where making it to the Final Four is almost customary for Tom Izzo. On the other side, we have the not-so-cinderella-anymore Butler, who has recently become a regular in the tournament. State will bring tough defense, good rebounding and key shot making abilities to the floor this Saturday. They will make the shots when they count and play with their hearts on their sleeves. They play ten deep and have great leadership from Raymar Morgan and Korie Lucious. For Morgan, this is his last chance at a National Championship, so he’ll do whatever it takes to get into the Championship game. State is not a great three-point threat as they get most of their points around the basket and they’ll probably continue with that game plan against Butler.
Butler and coach Brad Stevens have been making a name for themselves the past few years. They come with solid guard play from Ronald Nored and Shelvin Mack and rarely turn the ball over. Their big man Gordon Hayward, who is listed as a small forward, averages almost a double-double (15 pts/8brds) and can play anywhere on the court. He rebounds and he can score inside or beyond the arc. This team is solid in rebounding, distributing the ball and not turning it over.
Duke vs WVU: Huggins has this team playing very well together. He also plays about ten deep and keeps his players fresh. The Mountaineers play great defense and rebound well. They share the ball averaging almost 16 assists a game as a team. They handle the ball well and with Mazzula starting for guard Darryl Bryant (broken foot) the Mountaineers haven’t missed a beat. This team gets to the basket and gets their second chance points which may prove too much for the Blue Devils.
Coach K has this gotten this team to grow throughout this year. The Plumlee brothers have emerged as solid replacements to Zoubek and Thomas. Zoubek has been a beast on the boards ever since his explosion against Maryland earlier this year and with every game his confidence has grown. Duke plays fast, they score points fast and in bunches. Just when you think the score is close and opponents have a chance against Duke, the Blue Devils blow it open. Singler, Smith and Scheyer are the best scoring trio of any of the Final Four teams. Duke has good rebounding ability and are always around the basket. They get a good amount of second chance points and take care of the ball.
Of the two games, I think the Duke/WVU game is going to be the most thrilling to watch. Both teams play well as a team and are good at the same things – scoring and defense. At this point, I could see Duke and State playing for it all. State has the advantage with Izzo’s experience and his teams stout defense, but who knows, maybe a team like Butler can make the Final in the biggest surprise in the tournament.