Okay, sure--I hit less than a coin flip over the course of the Elite Eight. But I've got a really good feeling about my predictions for here on out--at least in part because I'm longer influenced by what I want to have happen so I can win a lot of money. Stupid Duke ruined that last weekend--so now, with clear eyes, and a strong heart, I'm ready to predict without my own fortunes hanging in the air above me.
First I have to mention two great moments made by the real sports writing press. One, as referenced in this Yahoo Blog post, is John Feinstein of The Washington Post ripping apart the one argument the NCAA was using for their stupid, stupid, stupid expansion plans. Also, AP Writer Eddie Pells, in an article contrasting Duke and West Virginia chooses to open with a reminder to the world of what a douchebag Bob Huggins is, and I applaud him for that: (emphasis mine)
"On one bench, there’s Bob Huggins, a coach who has dealt with an NCAA investigation, suffered a heart attack, been arrested for DUI, endured the stain of a zero-percent graduation rate and the tumult of two contentious job changes."
Let's be clear, though--Bob Huggins didn't "endure the stain"--he fucking caused it. He's a bad man, who recruits players and leaves them when they no longer have any use to him.
So, with that said, let's go to the Duke - West Virginia match-up. Shooting, as obvious as a stat as there is, might be the difference. West Virginia dispatched Kentucky, in part, with an incredible performance from outside the arc. That isn't their usual game, though. They are all about size and getting baskets close to the rim, and offensive rebounding. Duke will be undersized, compared to West Virginia, but they do have folks who are much more dangerous from outside. Who shoots better is going to be a big stat in this game--normally Duke would be the favorite here, but they are to find themselves dwarfed at a lot of positions.
In my brackets and in my predictions, I've had Duke exiting prior to the Sweet Sixteen, at the Sweet Sixteen, the Elite 8--I've devalued them at every turn. And so I feel weird picking against them again. But I like West Virginia to win a game that has a chance to be dominated by big men--West Virginia is deeper, more tenacious and more skilled in the paint than Duke. Also, I hate Duke.
Butler vs. Michigan State is a fun #5 vs #5 match-up--neither of these teams, by those seedings, should be here. But I think it fair to say that Butler was criminally under-seeded--they had won, what? 20 games in a row? They haven't lost to an unranked team since December. And in this tournament, they've knocked off Syracuse and Kansas State.
On the other hand, Michigan State is clearly packed with better athletes (just like Syracuse and Kansas State were). I think Butler's defense has been the least-talked about factor in this tournament. But here's the thing--Butler has thrived by making high-flying transition teams play ugly, muck it up basketball. Michigan State loves to play that style, too. Tom Izzo has had a week to prepare for this game, and he's clearly the genius of College Basketball. As much as I want to pick Butler, and I really, really do, I'm going with Michigan State. But it is going to be frightfully close.
Your predicted Championship Game is West Virginia vs. Michigan State.
*They are worth nothing