Strap in for the stretch run of maybe the most exciting and unpredictable NCAA tournament of all time. I will be the first to admit that I had 0 of the teams remaining picked a few weeks ago here on Sportskraze. It has been wild. It has been unpredictable. And boy has it been exciting.
So the first game of tonight’s doubleheader features a Butler team that will be playing in front of a “home” crowd. Butler’s campus is located just 6 miles away from Lucas Oil Stadium. The crowd will be on their side similar to how the crowd was on Michigan State’s side when they played close to home in last year’s Final Four. Both of these teams are playing outstanding basketball and are exceptionally well coached. Tom Izzo has led the Spartans to 6 of the last 12 Final Four’s and is arguably the very best coach in College Basketball. Remember, the Spartans have made the majority of this run without their best player and floor general Kalin Lucas.
Butler holds the longest winning streak in the country and has really knocked off some top-notch teams. I hate to hear the comparison of this team to the movie “Hoosiers.” Butler has been a team ranked in the elite from the beginning of this year and is used to the big game atmosphere due to great non conferencing scheduling. People forget that they defeated high-caliber teams such as Ohio State and Xavier before this amazing tournament run. I mean it is still a remarkable story, but it is not as David vs Goliath as the movie “Hoosiers” was. Butler will come ready to play.
But realize that Michigan State was the national runner up last year. They have the best coach in the country. And they know how to win big games. Michigan State’s inside presence and outstanding rebounding ability will prove too much for Butler and the clock will finally strike midnight on this amazing story. Please take note though that I also said last weekend in the blog that Kansas State’s inside presence would prove too much for the Bulldogs. So take the prediction with a grain of salt, but I am going with the Spartans. I would love to see the Butler saga continue into the Finals, but I just do not see it happening on this day.
In the nightcap of the double-header, you got 2 schools out of the big time conferences going at it. You got 2 of the top coaches in the country facing off for the first time since West Virginia embarrassed Duke in the 08 version of March Madness. These are both far different teams from the ones that met up 2 years ago. Duke has quietly flew under the radar all tournament and really much of the year it seems like. Many thought that West Virginia deserved a one seed over the Dukies. Well Duke has proven to be the only one seed to hold up its end of the bargain and make it to Indianapolis.
And are you really surprised? Coach K has been to 11 Final Fours. He knows how to get his guys ready to play at the right time of the year. And this Duke team, for the first time in 5 years, is not all about the 3 ball. They have an inside presence with the rising senior Jason Zoubek, the combo of the Plumlee brothers, and the always dangerous versatile play of Kyle Singler. Can West Virginia handle the 3 headed monster of Singler, Scheyer, and Smith?
West Virginia held the most talented team in the country to their worst offensive showing of the year last weekend. The Wildcats shot horrific and West Virginia’s 1-3-1 really kept the Cats off-balance. Look for more man to man from the Mountaineers tonight (typical Huggins). Though I said earlier that Duke does not rely on the 3 ball as much as they have in the past, I still think Duke’s shooting will be the determining factor of tonight’s outcome.
If Duke comes up and hits 11 3’s as they did in the Elite Eight, they will advance to the Finals and be the favorite to get Coach K another title. If Duke does not shoot great from the perimeter, the Mountaineers will win. And I am going with a mediocre shooting performance for the Blue Devils giving Da’Sean Butler a chance to will his team to victory. Look for Da’Sean to take control down the stretch getting Bob Huggins into his first National Championship contest.
Those are the calls from Sportskraze for tonight. Though my picks have not been the most accurate throughout the course of the tournament, it has been a fun ride. Look for some great games tonight.
Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.