A look at Saturday's national semifinals:
Michigan State (28-8) vs. Butler (32-4), 6;07 p.m.: I think I've got to get off the Michigan-State-is-missing-its-best-player (Kalin Lucas) bit because it hasn't slowed down the Spartans. I guess we knew this before but it proves it once again: Tom Izzo is one of the great coaches of all-time. He's got plenty of talent too or he wouldn't be able to survive the absence of Lucas. Butler is a great team but it's still amazing that the Bulldogs, out of the Horizon League, are in the Final Four. I said on Globe 10.0 that not one Butler player was recruited by a Big 10 school; and none of them would play in the NBA. According to one story, I read Gordon Hayward was recruited by Purdue but last season's Blue Ribbon Yearbook makes no mention of that; and an NBA front-office type told me he will play in the NBA. So I was wrong about that. Hayward is terrific as are the rest of his teammates especially guard Shevlin Mack. The Bulldogs play great man-to-man defense and tend to lull opponents to sleep. They've gotten off to fast starts in their upsets of Syracuse and Kansas State and that could be key here again. I don't have confidence they can overcome a big deficit. In the final analysis, Michigan State is bigger and stronger and they're no knucklehead team. Butler, however, really has its game in gear and has incredible poise. Did you see that Butler is favored? How about that? I see this as close and low-scoring and someone will have to make a play at the end.
Duke (33-5) vs. West Virginia (31-6), 8:50 p.m.: The Dookies were the overlooked No. 1 seed, undeserving some felt. Now they're the only top seed left in the tournament, and the de facto favorite to win this. Their three-man offensive attack, Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith, and Kyle Singler, is explosive and they play great defense (here's a little side game you can play while watching the game, have an offensive foul pool on Duke, see how many they draw). I felt West Virginia was a Final Four team early in the season, they seemed to fade in the second half but got it back together once the Big East tournament started. The Mountaineers can match Duke in a physical game and with mental toughness. They have the defenders to make things difficult for Duke on the perimeter. How Duke reacts to that will decide the game. West Virginia is a bad matchup for the Dookies and I like the Mountaineers to win this.
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell