West Virginia Mountaineers (31-6 SU, 17-19 ATS) vs. Duke Blue Devils (33-5 SU, 22-14-1 ATS), 8:47 p.m. EST, Saturday, April 3, 2010, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind. TV: CBS
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: West Virginia +3/Duke -3
Over the last few years, Duke has had plenty of chances to reach the Final Four. But it’s been since 2004 that the Blue Devils have actually reached the Final Four. Finally, they are back in the spotlight where they will face West Virginia on Saturday in Indianapolis. West Virginia is in the Final Four for the first time since 1959. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is making his 11th appearance in the Final Four, while WVU coach Bob Huggins is in the Final Four for the second time in his career and the first time since 1992.
Duke is the only No. 1 seed to reach the Final Four. After winning the ACC tournament championship, the Blue Devils got three straight double-digit victories to start the NCAA tournament over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, California and Purdue. But their game against Baylor on Sunday in the regional final was much more difficult.
The Blue Devils won the game 78-71, but it was back and forth throughout the second half and the Bears had a two-point lead with about four minutes remaining in the game. With the game tied at 61, Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Duke a six-point lead and eventually the victory. Smith and Scheyer carried the Blue Devils offensively all game long. Smith was 4-of-6 on 3-pointers and scored 29 points, and Scheyer made 5-of-10 from 3-point range and scored 20 points. Kyle Singler had probably the worst offensive game of his college basketball career, shooting 0-for-10 from the field and 0-for-5 on 3-pointers for just five points, so Smith and Scheyer were forced to take over. Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek each grabbed nine rebounds. Duke shot 36 percent from the field and 11-for-23 on 3-pointers. Duke held a six-rebound advantage on the boards. Baylor shot 46 percent from the field and 5-for-18 on 3-pointers.
Like Duke, West Virginia won its conference tournament as well – the Big East. Then, the Mountaineers cruised to some rather easy victories over Morgan State, Missouri and Washington. But the Mountaineers then had to go up against No. 1 seed Kentucky in the regional final, the team that at that point was widely considered the favorite to win the National Championship.
But West Virginia won 73-66 over Kentucky. The Mountaineers did so without even making a single 2-point shot in the first half. They made eight 3-pointers in the first half and held a two-point lead at the break. On the other side, Kentucky missed its first 20 3-point attempts and finished 4-for-32 from beyond the arc. WVU finished 10-for-23 on 3-pointers and 39 percent overall, while Kentucky shot just 34 percent from the field. Kentucky held an 11-rebound advantage on the boards. Surprisingly, Joe Mazzulla, who was replacing the injured Darryl Bryant at point guard, scored 17 points for the Mountaineers. Da’Sean Butler led the team with 18 points, including 4-of-8 on 3-pointers. Kevin Jones scored 13 points and Devin Ebanks had 12 points.
Bryant was cleared to play in the Final Four, so it appears that he will be playing in this game.
Duke has a solid combination of size and great perimeter play. Zoubek, Thomas, Singler and the Plumlee brothers give the Blue Devils a lot of size and physicality down low. They can rebound with any team in the country and they are very aggressive around the basket. West Virginia is also a very good rebounding team and has great toughness, but the Mountaineers don’t have the same size that Duke has. But they can make up for it with their length and versatility. They will need that length to bother Scheyer and Smith on the perimeter. The Mountaineers need to rebound well and limit the outside shots by the Blue Devils in order to win this game.
WVU is 5-0-1 ATS in its last six NCAA tournament games as an underdog, 4-0 ATS in its last four games overall, 7-1 ATS in its last eight neutral site games as an underdog, 12-2-1 ATS in its last 15 NCAA tournament games, 4-1 ATS in its last five games following an ATS win, and 5-2 ATS in its last seven games as an underdog. Duke is 4-0 ATS in its last four games overall but just 1-5-1 ATS in its last seven games against the Big East.
Ryno’s Pick: The difference in this game will be experience, free throws and three point shooting. Advantage DUKE. Take the Blue Devils to win and cover the spread.