Final Four – Butler vs Michigan State
Butler vs. Michigan State in the Final Four. Everyone had that down in their brackets a few weeks ago, right? If anyone can answer yes to that question they’re either a genius or just plain lucky. Who would have thought two No. 5 seeds would meet up in the Final Four? Especially when you consider that in the last three tournaments no team lower than a No. 3 seed has made it that far. The Bulldogs have been on an amazing run since December. Their unexpected run through the tournament has extended their winning streak to 24 games. The last time Butler lost was back on December 22. It’s even more impressive since their last two wins were upsets over No. 1 Syracuse and No. 2 Kansas State. The Bulldogs ended the Wildcats’ tournament with a 63-56 win as a 4-point underdog at Bovada.
The Bulldogs’ hard-edged defense was too much for the Wildcats, especially leading scorer Jacob Pullen, who had 14 points and a lame 4-of-13 shooting. While Pullen struggled, Butler’s big scorer, Gordon Hayward, thrived. He scored a game-high 22 points to go with nine rebounds. The Spartans weren’t supposed to make it this far. They were supposed to be in big trouble after leading scored Kalin Lucas was lost to a torn Achilles. Instead of going away the Spartans have only gotten stronger with Lucas watching from the sidelines. In the Elite Eight against Tennessee the Spartans edged the Volunteers 70-69 thanks to a clutch free throw from Raymar Morgan in the dying seconds. Morgan ended up with a double-double, 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Durrell Summers was nearly perfect with 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting. This is the Spartans’ second straight year in the Final Four. Last year they upset Connecticut 82-73 as a 4.5-point underdog before eventually losing to North Carolina in the tournament final.
Overall this is the Spartans’ eighth appearance in the Final Four. In their seven previous trips they are 3-4 SU. Butler has never appeared in the Final Four and this is actually the first time they’ve ever made it past the Sweet 16 in the tournament. Butler may be in foreign territory in the tournament but geographically speaking they’re close to home in Indianapolis. Lucas Oil Stadium, the venue for this year’s Final Four, is a few short miles from Butler campus, making this something of a home game for the Bulldogs. The oddsmakers are favoring the Bulldogs after listing them as 1-point chalk. Those odds might look different if Michigan State had Lucas in their lineup.