#5 Butler Bulldogs
#5 Michigan State Spartans
Vegas Odds: Butler -1.5 Bet on bodog
Why Watch? Outside of the obvious reasons (its the Final Four!), you’ve got the hometown team getting its first taste of April basketball, taking on one of the Final Four’s familiar faces. Michigan State is playing in its sixth Final Four of the last twelve seasons, and few people expected them to get to this point when the tournament began much less once Kalin Lucan went down with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon. As for Butler, they knocked off the top two seeds out West last weekend and have the ability to win two more.
How Butler Got Here: Butler 63 - Kansas St 56
How Michigan St Got Here: Michigan St 70 - Tennessee 69
Why Michigan St Will Win: Tom Izzo is among the best (if not the best) in the profession when it comes to coaching in March; the level of preparation is nonpareil, giving Michigan State an advantage over just about any team they face. Durrell Summers and Raymar Morgan make an impact offensively from start to finish while Draymond Green shows why he’s one of the best “glue guys” around, and Korie Lucious bounces back from uneven performances in St. Louis last week.
Spartan to Watch: C Durrell Summers - 11 ppg, 5 rpg, 1 apg
Despite winning three of their last four games heading into the NCAA Tournament, Michigan State had done so with Summers averaging just 7.3 ppg. In four tournament games he’s boosted that number up to 20.0 ppg, including 21 points on 8-for-10 shooting in the regional final. Michigan State will need a similar effort against the Bulldogs if they’re to win.
Why Butler Will Win: The comforts of being at home don’t weigh down Brad Stevens’ club, which clearly has the ability to win a national title. Matt Howard stays out of foul trouble while Shelvin Mack and Gordon Hayward do the scoring and Ronald Nored makes life a living hell for Korie Lucious defensively. Down the stretch Coach Stevens pushes all the right buttons, leading Butler into the title game.
Bulldog to Watch: G Ronald Nored - 6 ppg, 3 rpg, 4 apg
While Hayward and Mack are the best players they’ve also got a point guard with the ability to pester opposing floor generals into subpar performances. Nored is a very good on-ball defender who understands where all players on the floor need to be. Offensively he sets up Butler’s primary scoring options while also possessing the ability to get some things done on his own. If he dominates the individual matchup with Korie Lucious Butler will hold the upper hand.
How It Will Go Down:
This one’s going to be close throughout. Both teams are solid defensively, meaning that the outcome likely boils down to late-game execution. Of all the players most likely to be on the floor in crunch time, Hayward and Mack may be the best options to make a play…and they’re on the same team. Bulldogs win a one-possession thriller.
Betting Pick: Butler -1.5
Real Pick: Butler