Breaking Down the Final Four

With one matchup between two five-seeds, and another between a one-seed and a team that deserved a one-seed, this year's Final Four has a little bit of everything. We know for certain that a five-seed will play either a one-seed or a two-seed in the Championship Game, but what else have we learned? The best way to answer this question is to breakdown the rest of the tournament team-by-team, and by matchup.

The Teams


The Bulldogs seem like a great underdog story, right? Wrong. They might not have been in the Final Four on the majority of the brackets, but they entered Selection Sunday ranked 8th by ESPN, and 11th in the AP poll. Butler isn't the same type of five-seed that Michigan State is. The problem here is that the Selection Committee did a very poor job seeding the Bulldogs, as well as many other teams.

Butler probably should have been a two- or three-seed, unless the aforementioned ranking and a 20-game win streak entering the tournament doesn't qualify a team for a seed like that. But even if you don't believe the Selection Committee made an egregious error when seeding them, the Bulldogs clearly shouldn't be underdogs now.

This team has beaten one of the favorites to win the tournament (Syracuse), so we know they've got talent, and playing within walking distance of your dorm room helps, too. Their performance so far has been impressive, but I don't think we've seen their ceiling yet.

Michigan State

This team deserved their fairly low seeding, mostly due to faltering since the tremendous start they had early in the season. Still, the Spartans found a way to emerge as the victors in the toughest region on this year's bracket, and did so as a five-seed, which would appear to be a great accomplishment.

I'd say it's been a good, but not great performance from the Spartans so far. It's good to be the regional champion in the toughest region, but it's not as impressive when you consider that the highest seed they've beaten was Maryland (a four-seed), or that they've won their four games by a combined 13 points.

Barely beating teams that, according to seed, they're better than, doesn't impress me, and the loss of Kalin Lucas will eventually be felt. We've seen the best this team has to offer without their best player, and it's not enough to get them to the championship game.


The Blue Devils got the most controversial draw (both in seed and strength of region) in recent memory, and so are predictably in the Final Four. They played a schedule that any of the one-seeds would've fared just as well against, and are here in large part due to a favor from the Selection Committee. But it's not like there's nothing to like about this team.

Duke has lost only a single game since January, and they've got talented athletes like Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler, and Nolan Smith, all of whom average more than 17 points per game. The best reason to like the Blue Devils is coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has led the team to the NCAA Championship Game seven times, and has won the national title three times.

Duke fans expect success this time of year, and given the team's disappointing seasons lately, they can only be satisfied with the team's performance if it can win two more games. They have yet to falter in this lofty goal, but they also haven't been particularly impressive.

West Virginia

Ever since a Da'Sean Butler buzzer-beater in the Big East championship, this team has looked unstoppable. A Big East team with 31 wins is impressive enough, and the most recent victory came against a team that will lose at least three or four players in the NBA draft. Some might attribute this win to the fact that Bob Huggins has clearly figured out how beat John Calipari, considering he is now 8-1 lifetime against the Kentucky coach, but this team has more going for them than just their latest win.

The Mountaineers' frontcourt is putting up gaudy numbers, with their top four forwards averaging over 50 points per game, which is unparalleled by any of the remaining teams. None of the other teams seem to have as much depth, either, considering West Virginia lost their starting point guard and still beat two very talented teams, mostly thanks to the electric Joe Mazzulla, who stepped in for the injured Darryl Bryant and scored 20 points in two games.

This Bob Huggins-led team has been impressive in all four tournament games so far, and appears to be on its way to a national title.

The Matchups

Michigan State vs. Butler

This probably isn't surprising given what I wrote about each team, but I'm feeling really confident in Brad Stevens' Bulldogs in this one. I think they're the better team, and they've been more impressive in the tournament so far, playing against better teams. Even if this game was in Detroit like last year, I'd probably pick Butler here. Taking into account that the game is in Indianapolis, I'd consider it a victory for the Spartans if they could keep this game close for most of the forty minutes. Butler should win with relative ease.

Duke vs. West Virginia

This is a great Final Four matchup that should come down to the wire. It wouldn't be the least bit surprising to see this game decided by the final shot, and in that eventuality, Da'Sean Butler and Jon Scheyer are my picks to be the difference-makers. Call it a gut-feeling, but I like the Mountaineers in a thrilling game.

Championship Game: West Virginia vs. Butler

I want to pick the Bulldogs here, but I just can't justify it. As impressive as Butler has been, I think West Virginia presents a matchup nightmare for them. The Mountaineers are too consistent and disciplined in their half-court game for Butler's stifling defense to be as effective as it has been over their last 24 games. Against almost any other team in the country, I'd pick Butler here, but I think West Virginia cuts down the nets in Lucas Oil Stadium.

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