Tourney Thoughts: MSU, Duke face tough challenges; Kentucky flops
Kentucky may have panicked by taking too many 3-pointers (32) against WVU
Duke may have to play its best game of the year to knock off Baylor Sunday
Rebounding margin may determine the winner of Michigan State-Tennessee
SI.com caught up with Seth Davis, who's serving as a CBS studio analyst during the tournament, to get his quick thoughts on Saturday's action.
Butler and West Virginia both upset higher seeds on Saturday to punch their tickets to Indianapolis (but we'll get into that a little lower in this column).
On Sunday, two more Final Four spots are up for grabs. Here's a quick primer for tomorrow's action:
Sunday Scouting Report
MICHIGAN STATE VS. TENNESSEE
These two teams match up well against each other. The bottom line is Michigan State is trying to go to the Final Four without its best player (PG Kalin Lucas). This isn't like West Virginia losing Truck Bryant -- Lucas is very important to everything the Spartans do. Not to mention, Tennessee loves to press opponents from end-to-end. Of course, the Volunteers lost their best player (Tyler Smith) back in January, but they've obviously had time to adjust.
Here are three keys to the Midwest Regional final:
1. Michigan State must take care of the ball. Turnovers have been a problem for the Spartans this season. Unfortunately, Lucas was their most reliable ballhandler. The rest of the team has struggled with sloppy play during the season. And you cannot play that way against Tennessee, a great defensive team that really feeds off turnovers.
2. Who'll win the battle on the glass? Tennessee really dominated the glass against Ohio State, outrebounding the Buckeyes 36-23. A sleeper guy in this game for Tennessee is Brian Williams. He racked up 12 rebounds against the Buckeyes. The interior game is Michigan State's soft spot, but the Spartans have been dealing with that all year; they're still a good rebounding team, as is always the case with Tom Izzo's team. The whole culture of Izzo's program is centered on rebounding -- they're ranked No. 2 nationally in rebounding margin.
3. Who is going to make outside shots? Just ask Kentucky about this one. (If you go 4-for-32 from three-point range, it's hard to win an Elite Eight game.) Both Michigan State and Tennessee have players who can hurt you from outside. Spartans guard Durrell Summers has been playing lights-out the last two games, scoring 26 against Maryland and 19 against Northern Iowa. If he can continue to play at this level, then Michigan State has a good chance to win.
DUKE VS. BAYLOR
Duke could be in real trouble here. The Blue Devils have not shot well over the last few weeks, and they've been grinding it out with defense and rebounding. I don't think they're going to be able to grind their way past Baylor. Duke is going to have to play its best game of the season to win on Sunday, I really believe that.
Here are three keys to the South Regional final:
1. Duke's outside shooting. This really starts with Jon Scheyer, as he's been very cold of late, but Duke, as a whole, will have to stroke it against Baylor. Baylor's 2-3 zone is a little soft. Numerous Big 12 coaches have told me that it's not hard to get good looks against the Bears; you just need to knock 'em down. Duke had a lot of quality shots against Purdue, but they weren't falling. Baylor is so big and strong on the interior that the Blue Devils will have a very hard time scoring at the rim and they will not get second shots, so they need to make their initial shots count.
2. Is Miles Plumlee ready to play the game of his life? Duke needs to capitalize on the elbow jumper. Unlike Brian Zoubek, Miles Plumlee can face up and hit that shot. Plumlee has the ability to really exploit this zone from the elbow, but he's never been the focal point of Duke's offense. So, is he ready to contribute in a major way?
3. Can Baylor get out in transition? Tweety Carter and LaceDarius Dunn are two very talented guards who love to get out in the open court and either drive hard to the bucket or spot up for open threes. Duke has to try and limit those opportunities. If Baylor's playing an open-court game, Duke is in big trouble.
OPENING SALVO: Today was all about toughness, smarts, poise and togetherness. The two teams with more "talent" lost, so maybe we have to redefine what talent means.
MOST IMPRESSIVE TEAM: West Virginia. This is not a knock on Butler -- West Virginia beat a better team. The Mountaineers looked like a championship team to me, and they really dictated how the game was played. You can criticize the young Kentucky Wildcats for taking so many threes -- and they definitely took too many (32) -- but West Virginia didn't really give them an opportunity to do much else. That was WVU's game play: Cut off the passing lanes, choke the post and eliminate the driving lanes. It's impossible to drive the ball against a 1-3-1. West Virginia basically dared the Wildcats to beat them from beyond the arc, and obviously they couldn't. The Mountaineers perfectly executed their game plan, and now they're in the Final Four. I would not want to be playing West Virginia in Indianapolis with the way that team is playing right now.
MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM: Kentucky. The Wildcats just played really badly. They looked like a bunch of kids playing against a group of grownups. DeMarcus Cousins let his emotions get the best of him and was completely out of control, as he can be. Eric Bledsoe had a very bad game. Kentucky really shot itself in the foot at the foul line, going 16-for-29 (55.2 percent).
MOST SURPRISING DEVELOPMENT: West Virginia's three-point shooting. In that game I think you had two coaches saying, "Let them try to beat us from beyond the three-point line." And West Virginia did just that, especially in the first half. If I had told you that West Virginia would go into halftime without having made a two-point basket and being outrebounded by 17, you would have thought Kentucky would be up by 30. It's not a shock that West Virginia won the game, but the fact that the Mountaineers did it behind the three-point line (finishing 10-for-23) is quite surprising.
PLAYER OF THE DAY: Gordon Hayward, Butler. He did it in all phases of the game: Defense, scoring, rebounding. Hayward was the best player on the court, finishing with a game-high 22 points and nine rebounds.
UNSUNG HERO OF THE DAY: Shelvin Mack, Butler. Big, strong all-around ballplayer. Hayward might be the most talented player, but I really think Mack is the heart and soul of that team.
SIGN OF A CHAMPION: Butler truly believing in itself. Sitting on the CBS set right before tipoff, Greg Gumbel asked us for our picks: I said Kansas State, Greg Anthony said Kansas State, Bill Self said Kansas State -- everyone said Kansas State. If you believe in yourself, your teammates, your program and your league, you can be among the last four teams playing college basketball this season.
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