The 2010 Final Four was completed on Sunday with teams led by two of the best coaches around punching their tickets. Michigan State, a team counted out on multiple occasions this season, will make it's sixth trip to the Final Four in the last twelve seasons due to their 70-69 win over Tennessee in the Midwest Region final in St. Louis. In a game that was tight throughout it took a Raymar Morgan free throw with 1.8 seconds remaining to provide the final margin. How did Morgan (13 points, 10 rebounds) get to the line? Draymond Green made the find, hitting him with an excellent pass inside and forcing the Volunteers to foul on the challenge.
"I knew once he got the ball he was either going to score the layup," said Green, who finished with 13 points and four rebounds. "Raymar is not known for missing layups, even when we're doing layup lines. I just never saw him miss a layup. I knew he was either going to make a play, and he's smart enough to know that they're going to come flying at him. He was smart enough to know the pump fake and go up, and they darn near killed him, but it was just a heads-up play by Raymar."
These two along with Durrell Summers (21 points) led the way and they needed to do just that as Korie Lucious struggled with Tennessee's ball pressure to the tune of 2-for-9 shooting and five turnovers to offset four assists. But that's been the story of the tournament for Michigan State, with players throughout the current four-game run stepping up to pick up a teammate. "I know they [were] out there pressuring me a lot," said Lucious. "They wore me down. Thank God for Raymar and Durrell and Draymond to come get the ball and take some of that pressure off me. I mean, it's just been helping me and keeping me able -- keeping me in the game and being able to get some rest whenever I need it."
"But I just gotta give credit to them for sticking with me and helping me throughout these two games to be as sharp as possible and just keep my focus and play my game and just try to help us win." The Spartans went into the locker room down three at the half (42-39) as Tennessee was able to hurt them with backdoor lobs and three pointers (6-9 3PT). But Michigan State did a better job of defending the three (1-7 3PT in the second half) and limited the amount of damage that the Vols were able to do via the backdoor as the half progressed.
Wayne Chism led four Tennessee starters in double figures with 13 points in his final collegiate game, yet despite this balance they fell one point short and the foul line is likely the spot that made all the difference. Tennessee made seven of twelve in the second half and 14-21 for the game; Michigan State made 16 of their 21 foul shots. A great game that neither team deserved to lose, once again it was Tom Izzo who came out on top. Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl may have said it best following the game: "Tom Izzo is probably as accomplished and outstanding a coach as there is in our profession."
HOUSTON: Duke attacks the glass to get back to the Final Four.
For most programs six years wouldn't be a long time in between Final Four appearances. Not the case for Duke, who earned their first trip since 2004 with a 78-71 win over Baylor in the South Region final. Nolan Smith led all scorers with 29 points while Jon Scheyer added 20, but it was their rebounding and second-chance points that told the story. Despite outrebouding the Bears by just six (43-37), Duke grabbed 23 offensive rebounds and outscored the Bears 23-16 in second-chance points. Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek combined to grab twelve of those, and while they didn't score much in the way of putbacks they got the ball out to the guys better equipped to score.
Thomas had the play that likely sealed things for Duke, dunking in a rebound while being fouled by Epke Udoh with 1:36 remaining and making the free throw to extend the lead to eight (70-62). "With Lance, he had a couple of plays where he kept the ball alive, which he doesn't necessarily get credit for, it's not a stat," said Scheyer. "And then the tip and dunk was just a huge play. Really a huge play. If not the biggest, one of the biggest of the game."
Four Bears scored in double figures with LaceDarius Dunn's 22 points leading the way, but Duke was able to limit him to 3-for-9 from the field in the second half. "Well, just got to give credit to the Duke defense," said Dunn. "They pressured us and really took us out of our comfort zone and allowed us not to run our offense, you know. But like I said, a lot of great things happened, but a lot of great things didn't. I just give them credit for their defense." As a team the Bears shot 2-for-11 from beyond the arc and just 41.2% overall in the final twenty minutes, and the combination of this with some timely Duke plays led to Baylor's demise.
Of course there will be conversation about two sequences involving the Bears' Quincy Acy, one being a charging call with 4:37 remaining and the other being a technical foul with 1:19 to go that short-circuited any hopes of a comeback. But for all the conversation this was a game that Duke won due to their effort on the boards. Is this team as talented as prior Duke squads that got to a Final Four? No, but their desire and willingness to work has them to this point. "I never had a group exactly like this one," said head coach Mike Krzyzewski. "Again, we're not a great team, but we are really a good team. But we have great character. To be around that character on a day-to-day basis is so fulfilling for me. That's why I'm very, very happy for them."
Game of the Day: Michigan State 70, Tennessee 69
G Nolan Smith (Duke) 29 points in the Blue Devils' win over Baylor.
G Durrell Summers (Michigan State) 21 points (8-10 FG) in the Spartans' win over Tennessee.
F Ekpe Udoh (Baylor) 18 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and five blocks in the Bears' loss to Duke.
Final Four (Indianapolis; Saturday)
6:07 PM Butler vs. Michigan State
8:47 PM West Virginia vs. Duke