Friday, March 26, 2010
From Sweet to Elite
By Dick Vitale
There should be excitement galore as the first two tickets to the Final Four in Indianapolis are punched on Saturday.
Let's start in the East: No. 1 Kentucky versus No. 2 West Virginia. The Wildcats did a solid job defensively against Cornell, holding one of the top 3-point shooting teams to 5-of-21 beyond the arc.
John Wall has been solid throughout the tournament, with 26 assists and only 11 turnovers in three games. DeMarcus Cousins has been Mr. Automatic, baby! He has hit 16 of 18 shots in the past two games!
West Virginia has held three straight opponents to less than 60 points in the tournament. Bob Huggins' team will be very physical, and the Mountaineers will try to control the tempo. The key for the Mountaineers is to limit Kentucky in transition.
One concern for Huggins, though, is turnovers. West Virginia turned the ball over 23 times against Washington. If that happens against the Kentucky, John Calipari's team will run wild in the fast break.
I give the slightest edge to Kentucky in a thriller at the Carrier Dome.
Out West, Butler is coming off a stunner over Syracuse, while Kansas State barely escaped a double-overtime thriller against Xavier. I love the way Butler plays defense as a team; Brad Stevens' club has held three straight opponents below 60 points. That defense has carried Butler to a 23-game winning streak, which stretches back to late December.
I like the fact that Butler does a great job with the basketball, especially when facing pressure. They take on quality teams and have turned the ball over just 13 times in the past two games. Are you serious? There is also that added motivation of being in the Final Four in their home city of Indy!
Kansas State has the exceptional backcourt tandem of Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente, and the duo combined for 53 points in the Maalox Masher against the Musketeers. I thought a key in that win was Curtis Kelly, who came through with 21 points and eight rebounds.
What about Frank Martin? He has done a terrific job, and players love working hard for him. There are some who questioned the decision to give Martin the job, when Huggins went to West Virginia. He deserves some love now, baby!
One key in this matchup is rebounding. Kansas State is averaging 16 offensive rebounds in the tournament. I am going with Martin and the Wildcats to survive and advance to Indianapolis, ending the dream for the Bulldogs.