By Josh Cook
The men's NCAA Final Four gets underway today Indianapolis. Here is a quick breakdown of tonight's national semifinals.
MICHIGAN STATE VS. BUTLER
A matchup of two No. 5 seeds pits last year's national runner-up against the underdog hometown team.
Backcourt: Michigan State lost leading scorer Kalin Lucas to a torn Achilles' tendon in the second round, but since then Durrell Summers has picked up his game and Korie Lucious has filled in very well. Meanwhile sophomore shooting guard Shelvin Mack of Lexington, Ky. - another in-state standout who got away from the universities of Louisville and Kentucky - has been outstanding so far in the tournament. Edge: MSU.
Frontcourt: Gordon Hayward (another in-state kid who got away from Indiana and Purdue universities) has been the breakout Butler star so far in this tournament, however the Spartans have plenty of depth in Draymond Green, Raymar Morgan and Delvon Roe. Edge: MSU.
Bench: Neither squad is very deep, but Michigan State might get more valuable minutes out of Chris Allen and Mike Kebler. Edge: MSU.
Coaching: This is Tom Izzo's first Final Four, it's Brad Stevens first. Edge: MSU.
Pick: Butler has been up against the odds most of this tournament, but the Bulldogs have found a way to win. Butler will do it again - Bulldogs 65, Spartans 62.
DUKE VS. WEST VIRGINIA
The Blue Devils are the last No. 1 seed remaining, while many thought the Mountaineers should've been a No. 1 seed entering the Big Dance. Rest assured that this is a game that will be painful for UK fans to watch.
Backcourt: The story of the week leading up to the Final Four has been Nolan Smith, whose late father Derek was a standout for the UofL team that won the national championship 30 years ago. He is coming off a career-best game in the regional final win over Baylor and should continue to build on that in Indy. He and Jon Scheyer give Duke a great combo that is slightly better than West Virginia's tandem of De'Sean Butler and underrated Joe Mazzulla, who bedeviled the Blue Devils two years ago in the NCAA Tournament. Edge: Duke.
Frontcourt: Kyle Singler is coming off a poor performance in the regional final, so he'll be looking to prove that was a fluke. Singler along with fellow forward Lance Thomas and center Brian Zoubek, who has been a different player in the second half of the season, give Duke a very formidable frontline. Devin Ebanks is a great player for the Mountaineers, and Kevin Jones is solid too. But they aren't better than the Blue Devils. Edge: Duke.
Bench: The injury to starting point guard Darryl Bryant moved Mazzulla to the starting lineup, so that hit the Mountaineers' bench hard. The Blue Devils, meanwhile, boast a pair of twin big men - Miles and Mason Plumlee. Edge: Duke.
Coaching: Mike Krzyzewski is Mr. Final Four. Bob Huggins is Mr. Gruff, but he won't be outcoached too much by Coach K. Edge: Duke.
Pick: Duke is due - Blue Devils 77, Mountaineers 72.
See you Monday night.
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