Brad Stevens and his No. 5-seed Butler Bulldogs (32-4) will travel a few traffic lights to Lucas Oil Stadium for a Final Four showdown with Tom Izzo and his No. 5 Michigan State Spartans (28-8).
Horizon League meets Big Ten for a date in the national championship.
Butler has not lost since December—a 24-game winning streak. The Bulldogs are familiar with their surroundings, playing within 10 miles of their Indianapolis campus.
Izzo and and the Spartans are familiar with the event, making their sixth Final Four appearance in the past 12 years.
MSU leads 13-10 in a series that dates back to 1927. The Spartans won the last meeting on Dec. 20, 1971, 77-71.
In their 24th dance trip, the Spartans are playing in their eighth Final Four. Butler is making its 10th NCAA tournament appearance and first trip to the national semifinal.
Thirty-seven Spartans have earned roster spots in the National Basketball Association, including current players Charlie Bell, Shannon Brown, Paul Davis, Morris Peterson, Zach Randolph, and Jason Richardson. Butler is waiting on its first NBA guy.
Butler scores fewer points per game, but the Bulldogs hold a greater scoring margin. Butler scores 69.4 and keeps opponents to 59.6. MSU averages 72.4 while limiting opposing teams to 64.1.
Which team will dictate the pace?
If the game is decided in the paint, the Spartans grab 8.9 more boards than their opponents. The Spartans understand the importance of shot selection and how it creates rebounding opportunities.
When Kalin Lucas went down with a season-ending injury, the Spartans needed someone to replace their leading scorer. Korie Lucious has been the man scoring double figures in the last two games, including a game-winning three-pointer against Maryland.
Raymar Morgan and Durrell Summers combine for 22 points and almost 12 rebounds.
Draymond Green scores almost 10 and grabs eight boards.
Gordon Hayward leads four Bulldogs in double digits.
The silky smooth swing man provides versatility to the lineup. At 6′9″, Hayward can go inside and get work done. He averages almost nine boards a game and can finish in the paint.
Hayward has also hit 42 trifectas on the season. Stevens has called on Hayward to run the offense from time to time.
Matt Howard adds 12 points and five rebounds. He is text-book type of player in the paint whose work could be used in a summer camp how-to video.
Shelvin Mack leads the Bulldogs with 65 three-pointers. Mack hits 40 percent from long range.
The only senior in the lineup, Willie Veasley, chips in 10 points and four rebounds.
Ronald Nored runs the point at just a touch under 2-to-1 assists to turnovers.
Zach Hahn comes off the bench and hits 42.3 percent from long range.
Seeing is believing.
Any doubt that Butler is good has been dismissed over the past two weeks. Many looked at their numbers and thought the Bulldogs’ success was the product of playing in the Horizon League.
Or maybe the Horizon League is better than popular belief.
Izzo and the Spartans have the experience. Butler has talent.
The Bulldogs have not flinched despite losing leads late in recent games. The Spartans have the experience that will matter on the floor.
MSU wins a close one.