Sat, Apr 03, 2010 - Page 18 News List

NCAA tournament boiling down to unlikely Final Four

REUTERS , INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA

One of the most unpredictable and compelling NCAA collegiate basketball tournaments in years draws to a close with a Final Four this weekend featuring traditional powers and smaller upstart teams.

South Region top seed Duke faces West Virginia in one semi-final today at sold-out Lucas Oil Stadium, while giant-killing Butler takes on Michigan State in the other.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose Atlantic Coast Conference champion Blue Devils are the only No. 1 seeds to make it to the Final Four in Indianapolis, said he was not surprised the 64-team tournament had been full of spectacular upsets.

“For all of us coaches in college basketball today, no one’s surprised that anybody beat another team,” said Krzyzewski, coaching in his 11th Final Four. “There just isn’t the difference that there was a decade ago from the top, historic programs and the emerging programs. There are just a lot of good basketball teams right now.”

Duke (33-5) will have its hands full with Big East champion West Virginia, a defensive-minded team on a 10-game winning streak and making their first Final Four appearance since 1959.

Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins believes a victory by his 31-6 team in Monday’s national title game would set off a party across the state of West Virginia.

“My grandfather never missed a game on the radio. There are certainly thousands of other people who grew up the same way,” said Huggins, who played for the Mountaineers in the 1970s. “It’s hard to get a grasp on how much it means to the state.”

The Michigan State-­Butler game features a traditional power facing a smaller upstart whose campus is just a few kilometers from the site of the Final Four.

Lovers of the underdog will be rooting for Horizon League champion Butler (32-4), which eliminated the top two seeds in the tournament’s West Region, to topple last year’s NCAA ­runner-up Spartans.

“It’s refreshing that you’re looking at four teams that ‘team’ is maybe the most important thing,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.

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