Experience Wins Out: Duke and Michigan State Advance To The Final Four
Last season Michigan State lost to UNC in the National Championship game, now they are one game away from facing another of the Tobacco Road teams, the Duke Blue Devils. Yesterday both the Spartans and Blue Devils won close games to go back to a place they are pretty familiar with, The Final Four. Michigan State and Duke have been two of the most successful programs of the last two decades, so the Final Four is nothing new to either one of them (unlike their two opponents).
Both Duke and Michigan State also have very veteran laden rosters, which have carried them so far in the tournament. Neither team entered this tournament as a favorite to win it all (though Duke had a few backers considering they were a 1 seed), but now both are just one game away from playing for a National Championship. They have taken vastly different roads to get to the precipice, but are now finally here.
Michigan State in the quirkiest Tournament I’ve ever seen, will not have faced anything higher than a 4 seed until the National Championship game, if they advance. In addition to Maryland, the 4 seed, they have faced a 12th seed, 9th seed, 6th seed and now a 5th seed in the Final Four. Now that’s not to say that teams like Northern Iowa or Tennessee didn’t have talent, but just to say that they weren’t considered among the elite teams in their region. The Spartans have earned the right to be in the Final Four, but to avoid any 1, 2, or 3 seeds, does mean that Michigan State has had a little luck on their side.
As for Duke, their luck came on Selection Sunday, when the committee first of all gave them a 1 seed, and then put them in the easiest bracket. The best team in Duke’s bracket, Purdue was without their best player, and had fallen down to a four seed. Even without their star they still came close to knocking off Duke, as the game was tight until the last few minutes. And while Duke faced a more traditional path to the Final Four, including a tough game against 3 seed Baylor, they really haven’t faced a true challenge. While Baylor is a good team, they couldn’t catch any breaks (or get any calls) to go their way yesterday. And couldn’t match-up with Duke’s experience.
Now these long time powerhouses are a just one game away from facing each other, but they shouldn’t forget about who stands in their way. Both Butler and West Virginia are talented teams, that are looking for an upset. Michigan State and Duke will once again need their experience to shine through to advance.