Breaking down the Final Four teams
No. 1 Duke vs. No. 2 West Virginia
The Road: The Blue Devils destroyed No. 16 Arkansas Pine-Bluff, took advantage of the size mismatch and cruised by California, then got past Purdue and edged Baylor in the Elite Eight.
Storylines: It has been a while since Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils have been here — six years. Can Duke win its first national title since 2001?
Stud: Jon Scheyer — It’s a tough call, especially since Nolan Smith busted out against Baylor, but the 6-foot-5 senior point guard has been the team’s most important player this season because of his responsibilities to run the team and also score.
Key: Kyle Singler — The junior forward is coming off a miserable game in which he failed to register a field goal and missed all 10 of his shots. Singler struggled early in the season as he made the adjustment to the perimeter but came on late in the season and shot well heading into the Baylor game. He needs to get back on track.
Key question: Can the Blue Devils get all three of Scheyer, Smith and Singler producing at the same time? It didn’t happen against Baylor, and Duke still found a way to win. But West Virginia is a superior defensive team, and the Blue Devils can ill afford an off night from any of the trio.
Why they win: Coach K and the Blue Devils will need to defend and make sure to close out so West Virginia doesn’t make shots from the perimeter. Also, Duke will need a strong effort via committee by its big men since the Mountaineers have plenty of length.
Why they lose: The Blue Devils just aren’t quite as tough as West Virginia and could be bothered by the length of the Mountaineers.
The Road: Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers took care of Morgan State without much difficulty and then were able to handle Missouri in the second round. West Virginia cruised past Washington in the Sweet 16 and then pulled the upset over a loaded Kentucky team to advance to the Final Four.
Storylines: It has been 18 years since Bob Huggins last made the Final Four. He was a surprise guest with Cincinnati in 1982, but this time he takes his alma mater in just his third season since taking over.
Stud: Da’Sean Butler — He has been terrific all season with his versatility and ability to make game-winning shots. Butler was a key in making threes early against Kentucky that kept the Mountaineers in the game.
Key: Devin Ebanks — The long and talented sophomore has been given the assignment of having to check the opposing team’s top player most of the season. However, Ebanks won’t just need to defend, he’ll also need to put some points on the board for the Mountaineers to advance to the national title game.
Key question: Can Joe Mazzulla keep it up after a strong effort in the Elite Eight against John Wall and the athletic Kentucky backcourt? Mazzulla was a pest at the back of the 1-3-1 and also made plays on the offensive end — including a rare 3-pointer.
Why they win: The Mountaineers make shots and defend. It’s truly that simple. This is a team that hasn’t shot the ball all that well this season but was able to make a bunch of threes in the first half against Kentucky.
Why they lose: Duke gets hot from the perimeter against the zone, and Huggins’ team doesn’t make enough shots.
No. 5 Michigan State vs. No. 5 Butler
The Road: The Spartans slid past New Mexico State in the first round and then needed Korie Lucious' 3-pointer as time expired to get past Maryland and into the second weekend. Tom Izzo’s team knocked off Northern Iowa in the Sweet 16 and also squeaked by Tennessee in the Elite Eight.
Storylines: Izzo has gone to six Final Fours in the past dozen years. The Spartans lost to North Carolina in the championship game a year ago, but how far can Izzo’s magic take them without Kalin Lucas?
Stud: Raymar Morgan — The athletic combo forward must continue to produce for the Spartans to have a shot to win. He has been inconsistent throughout his career, and for the most part, Michigan State struggles when Morgan doesn’t play well.
Key: Korie Lucious — He has been pressed into full-time action after the season-ending injury to Lucas. At times, he looks great, and other times, he appears overmatched. The Spartans will go as far as Lucious takes them.
Key question: Can Durrell Summers maintain his stellar play over the past two games? Not only is the athletic wing scoring at a high clip, but he’s also doing a competent job on the defensive end — an area that got him benched in the second half a couple weeks ago in the Big Ten tourney.
Why they win: Tom Izzo — I’m convinced this guy is as good a motivator and Xs and Os guy as there is in the nation. He finds a way to get it done despite all the injuries and issues that have hampered his team this season.
Why they lose: Lucious struggles to run the team, and Summers doesn’t dominate as he has over the past two games.
The Road: The Bulldogs beat UTEP in the opening round and then took care of Murray State to advance to the Sweet 16. Brad Stevens’ team then pulled the upset over No. 1 Syracuse and toppled No. 2 Kansas State.
Storylines: This one is simple. The Bulldogs are playing in their backyard and are the lone non-BCS conference team in the Final Four. The entire city of Indy will be pulling for the local guys.
Stud: Gordon Hayward — He’s such a multi-dimensional player who can score, pass, rebound and has a great feel for the game. He’s probably too unselfish but is capable of taking over the game at any point.
Key: Matt Howard — The positive is that Michigan State doesn’t have a dominant center, but the Spartans do have plenty of athletes and Draymond Green. Howard, a 6-foot-8 post player, needs to stay out of foul trouble, which has been a major issue much of the season.
Key question: Will Howard be able to stay on the floor? He was in foul trouble against Kansas State and the Bulldogs still managed to advance, but I don’t see it happening against Michigan State.
Why they win: The Bulldogs will need to shoot it well from the perimeter and hold their own on the glass against Michigan State.
Why they lose: Butler is unable to force Lucious into turning over the ball and also doesn’t make enough shots from the perimeter.