The Final Four: Where Anything Can Happen

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The Final Four: Where Anything Can Happen
Michael Heiman/Getty Images

If you were somehow 100 percent accurate in picking this year's Final Four, give yourself a huge pat on the back and declare yourself the most knowledgeable person about college basketball in your circle of friends.

After Kansas was eliminated in the second round, most people's brackets went up in smoke. However, that also meant they could enjoy the rest of the tournament with one less thing to worry about, leading to what should be an exciting weekend in Indianapolis.

Duke was the only top seed to get this far, so they should be seen as the favorite.  Compared to Duke teams in the past that have gotten this far, this one doesn't have as high a profile.

The Blue Devils will have to hope junior Kyle Singler and senior Jon Scheyer avoid shooting slumps, which both have had in one game or another in the tournament.  Junior Nolan Smith has had considerable success throughout the tournament and could be significant in determining whether head coach Mike Krzyzewski wins his fourth national title with the team.

Even before the tournament began, West Virginia was seen as a favorite to advance to the Final Four thanks to the momentum they received in winning the Big East Tournament. Some would have argued that a bit of that momentum was lost when they lost point guard Truck Bryant before the East Regional with a broken foot.  Though Bryant is unlikely to play against Duke, replacement Joe Mazzulla has more than stepped up in his absence. Da'Sean Butler and Devin Eubanks will also be key in helping the Mountaineers reach the top of the college basketball world.

Michigan State is the only holdover from last year's Final Four in which they lost the national title game to North Carolina, something they shouldn't have been able to accomplish being the fifth seed in a bracket with Kansas and Ohio State.

Even when point guard Kalin Lucas ruptured his left Achilles' tendon and all looked lost, Durrell Summers and Korie Lucious stepped up big time to give the Spartans a real shot at their first national title in 10 years.  Both players will need to keep their play up if their dream is to be fulfilled.  It will be up to head coach Tom Izzo, who is in his sixth Final Four in 12 years with the Spartans, to make sure they don't lose focus.

Butler has unquestionably been the story of the tournament, as they will be the first team since UCLA in 1972 to play in a Final Four in their hometown. The Horizon League Champions have gotten the job done on defense, as none of their opponents over the last two weeks have scored 60 points on them. Sophomore Gordon Hayward has stood out from the rest of the Bulldogs on offense and Ronald Nored is the team's defensive specialist.

Butler puts a 23-game winning streak on the line on Saturday in front of an Indianapolis crowd that is sure to get behind them and cheer louder than the Michigan State supporters in attendance.

 

Prediction 

West Virgina's continued momentum and Michigan State's experience will carry each into the championship game, proving that adversity that occurs during March Madness is overrated. The Mountaineers will stay hot just long enough to keep the Spartans one win short of a national title for a second straight year.

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