We are back again to break down your Final Four for you, and provide some analysis to help you decipher the Final Four in Indianapolis. Just for fun, we also are talking a little bit about the lines, our past picks, and the final weekend of the madness! Now, on to the picks!
Abhi: Ohio State, Kansas State, Kentucky, Baylor
Carl: Ohio State, Kansas State, Duke, West Virginia
(Sorry Abhi…had to bring it up!)
Duke – WVU:
Analysis: This game is a matchup featuring two very talented teams, and the winner will be favored in the Championship game against the Butler – Michigan State winner. Right now, Duke is the favorite to win it all with Vegas odds favoring the Blue Devils at 7-5. West Virginia is next at 2-1 odds to win it all. Right now the line is Blue Devils -2.5 even though West Virginia has played tougher competition on the way to Indy. A Bob Huggins coached team has never won the NCAA championship though and despite their gutsy performance versus Kentucky, injury concerns do still weigh on this Mountaineer team while Duke reaches the Final Four completely healthy.
My Pick: I have always been a Duke fan, but something that has always struck me is how many people HATE Duke. I mean HATE them. Not dislike them. Really truly want Duke’s program to be disbanded and will root against Duke even if Duke’s opponent is former felon convicted of toddler murder. The things I tend to hear the most often from Duke haters are:
* They get all the calls
* They complain to most about not getting calls
* They are arrogant/not classy/cheap players
There is an interesting article here about Duke fans, and if Duke fans even know why they are hated so much. The article is good but the comments below are the most telling.
One comment I find especially off-center:
People like myself hate Duke because they are the ultra privileged, snobby, snooty, upper class folk of college hoops. When I look at Duke players and Coach K, I think of spoiled kids from rich parents, instead of thinking about struggling students who survived growing up with hardships to just to get a chance at making it to college.
Are you trying to say everyone who goes to Duke and who plays basketball at Duke is from a privileged background? I would argue that this is not the case, but it’s also besides the point. Unlike golf (or Hockey, or even baseball), basketball is not a sport where one needs money in order to be get access to the skills to play the game. There are no expensive green fees, no private instruction required, and there are plenty of courts available all over America to whoever wants to play. In fact, it would appear to me that if there is any correlation between money and basketball talent I would argue for an inverse correlation. Being a basketball player is the only way out of a life of poverty for some of these guys…Talk about extra motivation! So being upset with Duke for having some guys from a upper middle class background may be misguided at best.
The real reason people hate Duke: Success. Duke players are generally successful on and off the court (except for Christian Laettner, Will Avery and Tucker Max). Because of Duke’s stringent academic requirements, these are guys who will likely be successful in life whether or not the NBA comes calling. They are smart, motivated, talented individuals. In my opinion, no other college in the nation has this combination of off the court and on the court success. And people HATE it. They can’t stand the fact that a school with great Academics could also be a great school athletically. Look at Tim Tebow. If you are not a Florida Gator fan or don’t know him personally, chances are you hate his guts. I am right there with you. I cannot stand him and actively cheer for him to fail at every turn. I can’t wait to see him flop in the pros. But when I sit back and think about it, Tim Tebow is exactly the type of guy we all should be cheering for. He never gets in trouble off the field. He works hard. He tries to make life for those around him better through his extensive work with charities and other local and national organizations. He is a great guy and a great role model, but I will always think he’s a d-bag.
So, despite the fact that everyone out there hates Duke and will be cheering for them to crash their bus on the way to Lucas Oil stadium…I am going to have to keep up my homerism and pick them to reach the championship game. I want to pick West Virginia. I really do. There is a lot to like about the grit and toughness they showed against Kentucky. But I will take Coach K’s experience and the health of the Blue Devils in this matchup.
Butler – Michigan State:
Anaylsis: Tom Izzo’s team has participated in half of the Final Four’s over the past 12 years. 12 years ago, Butler coach Brad Stevens just turned 21 and was finally old enough to drink. I may need a few cold ones during this matchup myself, as the game promises to be a snoozer. Michigan State is a 2 point underdog in this matchup that promises plenty of good chest passes, contested jumpshots, and efficient half court offense.
Oh, sorry. Just fell asleep at my keyboard.
My Pick: This is a tough one. Michigan State is experienced but not healthy. Butler is healthy but not experienced. Butler is playing in their own backyard…but how much of a home court advantage can you have at an 80,000 seat football stadium with a basketball court stuck in one corner? Clearly, Butler will have the most fans there out of any final four team. But just like the Super Bowl, this will be a corporate event where tickets were bought ALMOST A YEAR AGO. Any home court advantage should not be considered as significant beyond the ability of the players to sleep in their own beds the night before. Butler is a good team that has beaten quality opponents on the way. Syracuse. Kansas State. Michigan State’s best win was against good (not great) Maryland team, with it’s second best win being against a squeaker against a good but not deep Volunteer team, who everyone predicted to be gone in the first weekend. People talk about Butler overachieving. I think it’s the other way around. Michigan State is the biggest surprise here. People forget that Butler was ranked #8 at the end of the season, but somehow ended up with only a 5 seed in the tournament.
Recently, I broke my hand playing. It was bad. I am now the proud owner of 4 screws in my first metacarpal on my left hand (google it) for the rest of my life. Rehab has been a b*tch. You never realize how many things you can’t do with only one hand. I can still do the important stuff (See: Bottle of lotion, bedtime), but there are a number of things that I can’t do with only 9 fingers that I could do with 10. I feel like Michigan State is the same way. There is only so much they can do considered how banged up they are. I give Tom Izzo all the credit in the world for reaching the Final Four again. He is clearly one heck of a coach. However, I think this is where the Spartans miracle tournament run ends. I am picking Butler to reach their first NCAA Championship in school history by defeating the Michigan State Izzos at their own game. Free Throws. Rebounding. Defense.