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Butler vs Michigan State
Could this be the year of the underdog? The Butler Bulldogs and Michigan
State Spartans hope so. Admittedly both are tough teams, but neither entered the
NCAA Tournament ranked with the top echelon of teams. Butler and Michigan State
both received a 5 seed. Both teams have overcome good teams and plenty of
adversity to reach this point. Butler has the good fortune to be playing just a
few miles from their campus in Indianapolis, IN. Michigan State enjoyed that
same luxury last year, and isnít too far away this year either. Only one will
get to keep playing. Will it be the hometown darlings Butler, or the Izzo led
Spartans? Only time will tell!
The Bulldogs of Butler find themselves in the Final Four after a hard fought battle against Kansas State. They led for much of the game and held off a late rally attempt by the Wildcats. Itís possible that Kansas State was gassed after playing 2OT against Xavier two days prior. Butler had to take down Syrcause in the Sweet Sixteen. Many thought Syracuse would crush them like a bug, but the Bulldogs played with ice in their veins. They led for a large portion of the game, but lost the lead late in the second half. Most would have figured Syracuse would put them away, but Butler came back won the game.
The Butler Bulldogs have never had a player make it to the NBA. That will end very soon. Gordon Hayward is practically a lock to go in the first 15 picks of the NBA Draft. The sophomore swingman picks up 15.5 PPG and 8.2 RPG. He had 24 points against Ohio State during the regular season and put up 22 on Kansas State in the Elite Eight. Shelvin Mack, Matt Howard, and Willie Veasley are also integral cogs to this Bulldogs team. They combine for 36.1 PPG. Howard and Mack are both forces in the paint combining to pick up 9.1 RPG. Butler needs a big game from both of them against this physical Michigan State Spartans team.
Does the name Tom Izzo sound familiar? It should. The Spartans Coach has led his team to the Final Four for the sixth team. Upperclassmen playing for Izzo have had the chance to play in the Final Four for thirteen consecutive years. Izzo is truly one of the greatest coaches of all time. Michigan State wouldnít have reached this point without him. They narrowly overcame New Mexico State in the first round. After that they beat the Maryland Terrapins on a buzzer beating three pointer. In their third game they downed white hot Northern Iowa. In the Elite Eight they disposed of Tennessee. With the exception of Northern Iowa, the Spartans have won their games in the Big Dance by 3 points or less.
Losing G Kalin Lucas was tough for Michigan State, but Korie Lucious has gone an excellent job filling his shoes. He even scored the buzzer beating shot against Maryland. Durrell Summers has been lights out in the Big Dance. He had 21 points against the Tennessee Volunteers and 26 when the Spartans downed the Terrapins in the second round. Raymar Morgan has been a bit off his regular season numbers which were 11.5 PPG and 6.2 RPG. Michigan State needs a big game from him here.
Both of these teams are lucky to be here. They beat teams that were bigger, faster, and probably better than they are. Michigan State is without its best player and something has to give sooner or later. Butler is playing great and will be effectively be playing a home game just a few miles from their campus. How can you not root for Butler here. Butler landing in the Title game would be great for college hoops and for all the Cinderella teams to come. There is no betting edge that we can come up with. The game is a true toss up. So no official play. However, we'll be rooting for Butler here, and for college hoops in general. Butler by 2.