NCAA Tournament: Butler Bulldogs (32-4 SU, 16-20 ATS) vs. Michigan State Spartans (28-8 SU, 15-20 ATS), 6:07 p.m. EST, Saturday, April 3, 2010, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind. TV: CBS
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Butler -1/Michigan State +1
From a distance, Butler and Michigan State seem like Cinderellas in the Final Four. Both teams were No. 5 seeds. Michigan State has been playing without its star, Kalin Lucas.
Butler is a mid-major from the Horizon League. But with a closer look, it’s not quite that big of a deal that these teams will be meeting up this Saturday in Indianapolis. Butler has been ranked in the Top 25 almost every week over the past few years. The Bulldogs were in the top 10 in the preseason AP Top 25 and finished the season in the top 10 as well. They have won 24 games in a row and have been a dominant force among mid-majors over the past few years.
Michigan State was ranked No. 2 in the preseason polls and finished with a share of the Big Ten regular season title.
The real surprise is because of the draw that both of these teams had. Butler had to get by UTEP in the first round, Murray State in the second round (which upset Vanderbilt), and then had to face No. 1 seed Syracuse in the Sweet 16. Michigan State potentially had to face No. 1 Kansas in the Sweet 16. The Spartans barely survived New Mexico State in the first round, got a buzzer-beater from Korie Lucious after Lucas went down in the first half with a season-ending injury, and got lucky when Northern Iowa upset Kansas in the second round. The Spartans held on for a tough win over No. 9 seed Northern Iowa and then won in the final seconds over Tennessee, a No. 6 seed, to advance to the Final Four.
Butler upset Syracuse, which was one of the more shocking upsets of this NCAA tournament. Then, the Bulldogs got past Kansas State to advance to the Final Four.
Now, Butler has the fortune of playing the Final Four in its hometown of Indianapolis. The Bulldogs should have a tremendous home court advantage, much like Michigan State did last year in Detroit.
In Butler’s 63-56 win over Michigan State on Saturday, Gordon Hayward led the way with 22 points and nine rebounds. Shelvin Mack had 16 points, seven rebounds and three assists, but 14 of his 16 points and all five of his made field goals came in the first half. It was Hayward who made most of the big plays for the Bulldogs offensively down the stretch. Butler shot 46 percent from the field and 7-for-15 on 3-pointers. Kansas State shot 39 percent from the field and 5-for-15 on 3-pointers. Kansas State is known for its toughness and inside game, but Butler outrebounded the Wildcats by nine. The one negative for Butler was 20 turnovers committed while forcing 13 turnovers.
Michigan State defeated Tennessee 70-69 on Sunday. With the game tied at 66, Durrell Summers hit a huge 3-pointer for the Spartans. Down 69-68, Scotty Hopson got fouled for Tennessee, but he missed the second free throw. With the game tied in the final seconds, Raymar Morgan was fouled under the basket and made the first free throw. After missing the second one intentionally, J.P. Prince missed a desperation heave at the buzzer. Summers finished with 21 points and Raymar Morgan and Draymond Green each had 13 points. Morgan also had 10 rebounds. The Spartans shot 46 percent from the field and 6-for-18 on 3-pointers. Tennessee shot 51 percent from the field and 7-for-16 on 3-pointers.
Summers really stepped up in MSU’s win over Tennessee. With Lucas out, Summers will once again have to step up and have a huge game for his team to win. Morgan is capable of putting up numbers, but he isn’t capable of handling the ball on the outside and really carrying the offensive load like Summers can. Lucious was shaky with the ball against Tennessee, so Summers has to help him out on the perimeter. Hayward and Mack may be the two best players in this game. The two of them have to be hitting outside shots for Butler to win. And as always, Matt Howard has to stay out of foul trouble because the Bulldogs don’t have much else down low.
Michigan State is 4-1 ATS in its last five games as an underdog, 9-4 ATS in its last 13 neutral site games, and 9-4 ATS in its last 13 games against the Horizon League. Butler is 5-1-1 ATS in its last seven games against the Big Ten, 4-1 ATS in its last five games overall, 7-3 ATS in its last 10 NCAA tournament games, and 3-10 ATS in its last 13 games following an ATS win.
Ryno’s Pick: This game should be a real barn burner and it wouldn’t surprise me a bit to see it come down to the last possession. The loss of Kalin Lucas will finallty catch up with MSU. Expect a real slow paced game with BUTLER winning and covering the spread.