#1 Duke Blue Devils
#2 West Virginia Mountaineers
Vegas Odds: Duke -2.5 Bet the Final Four on Bodog
Why Watch: Duke plays in its first Final Four since 2004, when they were bounced by Connecticut in a classic semifinal. They’ll take on a West Virginia squad that’s been hot, having not lost since late February. The two teams are playing their best basketball of the year at just the right time and will meet in what many will hype as the de facto national title game.
How Duke Got Here: Duke 78 - Baylor 71
How West Virginia Got Here: West Virginia 73 - Kentucky 66
Why West Virginia Will Win: The Mountaineers have a number of “interchangeable” players in the 6-7 to 6-9 range who will give Duke fits on the perimeter, either in their man-to-man or 1-3-1 zone defense. And while they won’t shoot as well as they did against Kentucky, their offensive rebounding rate of 42.1% will show itself to be too much for the Blue Devils.
Mountaineer to Watch: F Devin Ebanks - 12 ppg, 8 rpg, 3 apg
He’ll be key on both ends of the floor, especially defensively. The sophomore from New York can do a variety of things offensively and is a handful to stop when playing within his strengths. Defensively he is West Virginia’s best defender, and given the presence of Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith his showing against one of these three will go a long way in determining the outcome.
Why Duke Will Win: Duke is an excellent offensive rebounding team themselves, grabbing 40.8% of their missed shots thanks to the likes of Singler, Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek. And the triumvirate of Scheyer, Singler and Smith will prove to be too much offensively for the Mountaineers no matter what defense Bob Huggins chooses to throw their way.
Blue Devil to Watch: F Lance Thomas - 5 ppg, 5 rpg, 1 apg
This could prove to be a tough matchup for Brian Zoubeck; unlike Baylor on Sunday the Mountaineer “big men” can step out on the perimeter and either drive or knock down the three. This will place the onus on Thomas and reserves Miles and Mason Plumlee; all three are better equipped to guard a Wellington Smith or John Flowers outside. If Thomas can continue to be active on the boards at both ends Duke’s got a good shot at advancing.
How It Will Go Down:
These two match up quite well in a number of statistical categories, and it will help Duke that Jon Scheyer shot well on Sunday to snap out of his slump. But Singler failed to make a field goal in the same game, and while he’s highly unlikely to do the same Duke will also be faced with an opponent that’s comfortable with the “spotlight”. The Mountaineers don’t wilt, and with Da’Sean Butler they’ve got just the man for late-game heroics. WVU wins this in the final two minutes.
Betting Pick: West Virginia + 2.5
Real Pick: West Virginia