Stacken gives insight for unpredictable Final Four

Nathan Stacken

Nathan Stacken

I can’t believe it’s coming to an end. I can’t believe the teams that are in the Final Four. I can’t believe my pick of Kansas to win it all floundered in the first week of March Madness.

Enough of that. The Final Four is set, and what an unlikely group of Final Four teams we have. Two #5 seeds, a #2 seed, and a #1 seed make up this year’s Final Four which will be in Indianapolis. Games start on Saturday night shortly after 5 p.m. central time on CBS. Here are a few things to think about each of the Final Four teams:

Duke makes it back to the Final Four for the first time in six years.

For most teams, a six-year span between Final Four appearances is pretty good. Not so, in Durham, North Carolina where the Duke Blue Devils expect to get to the Final Four year in and year out. Coach K has gotten his team back to the Final Four after winning the South Regional in Houston, where the Blue Devils beat Purdue and Baylor. With the ability of Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer to shoot the three, and big man Brian Zoubek, Duke is a tough and talented team. They look like the favorites to win it all if they can get past…West Virginia’s historic run.

The West Virginia Mountaineers are in the Final Four for the first time since 1959! Head coach Bob Huggins has taken his alma mater and turned it into a championship contender. This team plays great defense and they have a star in De’Sean Butler. Their starting pointguard Darryl “Truck” Bryant broke his foot last week in practice and missed their two games at the East Regional in Syracuse, but backup point guard Joe Mazzulla proved he is more than capable of leading this team. Duke poses some problems for West Virginia with their ability to shoot the three, but with West Virginia’s defense, I think they have a great shot to beat the Blue Devils.

Michigan State makes another surprise run to the Final Four.

Last year, there were some people that thought Michigan State could reach the Final Four. Quite possibly, no one thought that the Spartans would make it back this year.

The Midwest Region, or “The Region of Death” as some people called it, was loaded with good teams: Kansas, Ohio State, Georgetown, Northern Iowa, Maryland and even Tennessee.

Out of the rubble came…Michigan State. Almost everybody thought they were done except head coach Tom Izzo and the Spartans themselves.

Michigan State went to the Midwest Regional in St. Louis and beat Cinderella favorite Northern Iowa, and then beat Tennessee by making a free-throw with less than two seconds in the game.

Now they are headed to Indianapolis, looking like the team that some people might consider sentimental favorites except …

Butler comes back home, and not because their season is done.

Butler University, located in Indianapolis is headed to their first ever Final Four. The Bulldogs, a #5 seed, came out of the West Regional in Salt Lake City by beating #1 seed Syracuse and #2 seed Kansas State.

They got out to fast starts and were able to sustain the momentum through the second half of each game when both Syracuse and Kansas State made their runs, and got the lead in each case.

Butler battled back and now they head home to what should be a raucous crowd when they take to the floor at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for their semi-final game against Michigan State.

Will the home crowd help? Michigan State had lots of support when they made their Final Four run last year in Detroit. They made it to the championship game, but lost to a much better North Carolina team. Butler has some good players like Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard.

Picks …

It’s tough to say. I do think they will beat Michigan State, though it will be a tough game and a close one. (I’ve been wrong before; remember my Kansas pick at the beginning of the season?) So I pick Butler with not a whole lot of confidence, and they will play the winner of West Virginia and Duke. What a great game this will be.

Both teams are great defensively, and they have great coaches. My pick at the beginning of the tournament was West Virginia, so I won’t change that pick. Whichever team wins, I won’t be too surprised. It should set up a great championship game Monday night shortly after 8 p.m. Enjoy the rest of the tournament.