Both of those basketball games were very interesting today, but in different ways – and only one was watchable.
First, the Butler game. I have a serious man-crush on Gordon Hayward. He had 19 points and nine boards, and was absolutely everywhere throughout that game. From start to finish he did everything for his team and is by far the biggest reason why this remarkable run continues. Most impressively, though, Hayward was able to play stifling, relentless defense all game while only drawing two fouls. I was convinced he was the best future pro heading into this Final Four. Now I am certain of it. As good as he was, though, what I’ll remember most about this game was the glaring absence of Kalin Lucas. Without their floor general Michigan State regularly looked confused and disorganized when they were moving the ball down the court, and they just weren’t effective enough when they needed to be. They did a good job of controlling the Bulldogs in the second half, but without Lucas they were unable to capitalize on it and grab the win that was there for the taking. This is a game that will haunt Izzo, Lucas, and everyone else for a long time.
Now for the other game. It’s hard to say too much about that one – I hated Duke coming into that game, and now I hate them even more. They were clearly the better team on the court, and it made for a game that was not close after about 12 minutes. I knew that Duke had more depth and more talent, but I certainly didn’t expect that they would be able to exert that advantage like that. In fact, I was quite sure that they wouldn’t. West Virginia was disappointing in every aspect of the game, and there’s nothing more to say. I really didn’t expect Bob Huggins to get absolutely owned in a big game like that.
So what about Monday? My heart is firmly with Butler, but it’s hard not to give Duke a massive edge given how they arrived where they are. Duke has opened as a 6.5 point favorite, and it’s hard to argue with that one. Now I’ll spend the next two days trying to find a way to convince myself that Butler does have a chance – if not through reason then through self-delusion.