Jeff Eisenberg

Final Four preview: Michigan State will test Butler's defense

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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The Dagger previews both of the Final Four matchups. Here's our look at Butler-Michigan State:

No. 5 Butler (30-4) vs. No. 5 Michigan State (28-8)

Saturday, 6:07 p.m. EDT, Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis)

How they got here:

Butler: d. No. 12 UTEP, 77-59; d. No. 13 Murray State 54-52, d. No. 1 Syracuse 63-59, d. No. 2 Kansas State 63-56

Michigan State: d. No. 12 New Mexico State, 70-67; d. No. 4 Maryland, 85-83, d. No. 9 Northern Iowa, 59-52, d. No. 6 Tennessee, 70-69

Last Final Four appearances:

Butler: N/A

Michigan State: 2009 (Lost to North Carolina in national title game)

Match-up to watch: Michigan State G Durrell Summers vs. Butler G Shelvin Mack

There was absolutely no sign Durrell Summers would emerge as Michigan State's top scoring guard in the NCAA tournament entering play two weeks ago. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard scored in double figures just once in his final eight regular season games, but he's averaged 22.5 points in the tournament, helping fill the scoring void left by Kalin Lucas' injury. Matching those numbers against Butler's stingy perimeter defense will be difficult, especially if the Bulldogs' defend the way they did against Kansas State and Syracuse. Look for Shelvin Mack to start on Summers, but he'll likely see several different defenders.

Outlook:

Although Michigan State was probably slightly better last year with a healthy Kalin Lucas and the interior presence of Goran Suton, this year's Spartans may have more realistic title hopes since no uber-talented team of future pros stands in its path. The Spartans led the nation with a rebounding margin of plus-nine, they've shot 40 percent from 3-point range in the NCAA tournament and Korie Lucious has been strong in relief of Lucas at point guard aside from some late struggles against Tennessee.

Whereas Michigan State didn't beat a single team seeded higher than No. 4 to get to the Final Four, Butler went through the toughest possible path to get home to Indianapolis, ousting top-seeded Syracuse and second-seeded Kansas State. Unlike George Mason in 2006, the Bulldogs aren't likely to get overwhelmed by the Final Four stage, even if it's all of five miles from their campus.

Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack have consistently been productive offensively, but the key for the aptly named Bulldogs might be whether their stifling perimeter defense can make it difficult for the Spartans to score without Lucas. So far consistent scoring from Raymar Morgan and Durrell Summers has made the post-Lucas transition more seamless than expected

Prediction:

Butler can win this game, but I think Michigan State's Final Four experience from a year ago will provide a slight edge. Give me Mr. March Tom Izzo and the Spartans, 64-61.

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