One Number 1 seed, one Number 2 and two Number 5’s, one of them Butler. Butler ?!! I had to look them up to see where they are located . Has there ever been a Final Four like this ? I think not.
Come Saturday, I will be glued to the TV set but my main interest is the late game between West Virginia and Duke. I went to school at West Virginia and Duke is a long time favorite of mine. Pity they had to play each other. Not that I will have divided loyalties. Duke has ben a regular fixture in the Final Four and has won the National Championship three times : West Virginia is in the Final Four after a fifty year drought and in it’s 1960 Finals appearance it lost a heartbreaker to California inspite of the heroics of Jerry West. I’ll be rooting for the Mountaineers to go all the way.
What are the Mountaineers chances ?
Most sports pundits pick Duke and certainly Duke is the smart choice. The Blue Devils may not be the most athletic team around but they have size, play excellent defense ,have great outside shooting and , on the sidelines,Coach K, the premier coach in college basketball. I watched most of their regional finals win over Baylor and I was most impressed. Against the tough , talented Bears who were bouyed by playing in their backyard, Duke never lost it’s composure. For most of the game, the Blue Devils were behind, but each time they kept clawing back . Even though Kyle Singler had an off game , Nolan Smith had a career high 29 and a late flurry of threes by him and Jon Scheyer ( 20 points) helped put Baylor away.
I didn’t think West Virginia would be able to get past Kentucky. After all the Wildcats had spent most of the season ranked either #1 or #2 , had possibly three future NBA first round picks on their roster including John Wall, the most highly regarded prospect in the country, had rolled over their previous opponents and were guided by John Calipari , one of the best in the business. West Virginia , meanwhile , was missing it’s starting point guard Darryl Brant, was offensively challenged and had not been nearly as impressive in the earlier rounds. The Mountaineer defense was stellar but I never expected they would be able to harass Kentucky into such a poor shooting night. I don’t think anyone expected Joe Mazzula to step in and play as magnificently as he did. What a satisfying victory for a Mountaineer fan !
NBA analyst Jason King thinks Duke to win because ‘… if Duke can beat Baylor, it can beat West Virginia. The Bears had much better guards than the Mountaineers and they’re more imposing down low. Yet Duke found a way to win.” True , but I’m going to take the opposite tack. If West Virginia could beat Kentucky , who I’d thought would win it all, then they have a chance against Duke. A very good chance, if it can only shoot well from the outside . The team has been improving with every outing , they are mentally tough and very very focused thanks to Huggy Bear, no mean coach himself. I pick the Mountaineers in a dogfight.
In the other semifinal, I think Tom Izzo and the Spartans will bring Butler’s run to an end. Inspite of losing guard Kalin Lucas, Michigan State has not lost a beat . They play a physical defense, contest every ball and are very , very well coached. I pick them to davance to Monday’s final , hopefully against West Virginia. I hope also that the Mounties will prevail. In addition to everything, it should put an end to the sniping about the Big East Conference and how it is not as good as some others. I know West Virginia are the underdogs against Duke but I am heartened by the fact that Yahoo analyst , Greg Anthony, picks them to go all the way. May his words come true.
GO MOUNTAINEERS !