ToTheTin has basically ignored the Final Four to this point because we have had difficulty getting excited about it. The disturbing possibility that this be the last time fans are able to enjoy the NCAA Tournament on CBS and with a field of 65 teams–before ESPN pays roughly $356 billion dollars for exclusive rights to broadcast an absurd event with 96 teams in the field–has sparked a renewed interest in one of greatest events in sports.
Butler and Michigan State tip shortly after 6 PM Eastern Time. Let’s take a look at the matchups, keys, and of course, who will win.
Matchups to watch: Butler’s Gordon Hayward and MSU’s Durrell Summers could be the best potential matchup in this year’s weird Final Four field. Both players have the ability to shoot from the perimeter and get to the rim. Hayward is a much better all-around player, but hasn’t shot the ball with consistency this season, shooting just 30 percent from 3-point range. Summers won’t do much besides score, but he has dynamic ability. Both players have the green light–a bright, flashing green light.
Keys to the game: Korie Lucious makes me nervous. He is jittery and doesn’t always seem to grasp the concept of running a team, preferring to push tempo and take bad shots. Lucious is fearless and can really score, but needs to play under control. Unlike most so-called Cinderellas, Butler is not a good shooting team. That doesn’t mean the Bulldogs won’t launch 3’s, and if they start hitting, look out. Shelvin Mack is a volume scorer who can get hot from the outside. Mack will need to play well for Butler to advance to the title game. Michigan State figures to have an edge in the paint–so did Syracuse and Kansas State. The Spartans need to remember to pound the ball inside and not settle for jump shots.
Who Wins: It’s never too late to get one of my picks right. I like Michigan State in a close game. Butler’s bizarre run of good fortune and the fact that the Bulldogs haven’t really even played that well so far in the tournament gives me great pause. Butler has good shooters who haven’t shot well in the tournament and in Hayward’s case, all season, along with great balance and toughness. Ultimately, Michigan State has more talent and much more experience on the national stage. It will be interesting to see if Butler looks nervous early. I just want a good game, and I think I might get my wish.