Butler remains a 1-point favorite against Michigan State in Saturday’s early Final Four game (6:05 pm). Duke is a 2-point favorite against West Virginia. We’ll be openly rooting for the Mountaineers this weekend – gotta support the Big East! – but a tiny part of us wouldn’t mind seeing Butler winning it all. (Additionally, we’ll be rooting for Boise State to win the BCS title next January.) Picks after the jump; enter yours in the comments and look prescient or foolish.
Why’d we give West Virginia a huge post and not give the same treatment to Duke, Michigan State and Butler?
1) Michigan State is the team of the decade.
2) It’s Duke. After the Blue Devils beat WVU – with the help from the zebras, of course – we’ll do our best to diminish Duke’s successful season.
3) We’ve given Butler plenty of love.
Theories on Butler-WVU:
Butler had 2nd half leads against Syracuse and Kansas State, lost both leads in the final 10 minutes, and then stole the leads back in the final few minutes. Pretty impressive when you consider both of those teams were in the Top 15 all season and have considerably more talent. Brad Stevens outcoached Jim Boeheim (never known as a great “coach”) and Frank Martin … but can the young kid do the same against the master, Tom Izzo?
Michigan State’s primary advantage is that it has Izzo. Also, it sort of feels like there is some kind of “destiny” thing going on – how else to explain the lane violation, the buzzer shot, and then the 1-point win over Tennessee? Plus, basically everyone who contributes was in the Final Four last year.
Reasons we’d pick Butler: Nored and Veasley have a real good chance to stop Summers and Morgan. After that, who can score for the Spartans?
Reasons we’d pick Michigan State: Hate to mention him again, but with five days to prepare … how can you pick against Izzo? (Note: He’s 2-3 in the National Semifinals.)
We’ll reluctantly take Michigan State, 65-63.
Theories on West Virginia-Duke
If we could go back briefly to the whistle that helped Duke beat Baylor – here’s a statistical formula that claims the ref calling Quincy Acy’s drive a charge instead of a block (the wrong call, as multiple replays show) shifted Duke’s winning percentage from 34 percent (basket counts, Acy makes free throw, Baylor leads by five, Zoubek fouled out) to 49 percent. It matters not that Baylor briefly re-took a 1-point lead … that play was the game. (And Duke, to its credit, dominated the offensive glass in the final few minutes.)
This game will probably be decided on the glass. As pointed out earlier in the week, WVU won the rebounding battle – especially at the offensive end – in the meeting two years ago. This year? WVU was one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the Big East (2nd), but on the defensive glass, it was just mediocre (12th, which is worse than Baylor was in the Big 12). Duke is big, pounds the glass, and if you’re going to give Smith, Singler and Scheyer repeated three-point opportunities, forget about winning. (Note: Kyle Singer, the t-shirt maker, was 0-10 against Baylor and Duke still won.)
We’ll take Duke here, 73-67.
Our pick to win the title: Duke 71, Michigan State 61.