With the Final Four finally upon us, it’s time to make some picks, and Manhattan coach Steve Masiello is going with the favorites. He expects two close games Saturday, but he expects Kentucky (38-0) to beat Wisconsin (35-3), and he expects Duke (33-4) to beat Michigan State (27-11).
Up first: Kentucky/Wisconsin.
“Notre Dame had a great ability to stretch (Kentucky’s) five men and make their bigs have to come out and play and involve them in some pick-and-rolls, which I thought could have bothered Kentucky – and I think it did,” Masiello said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones, referring to Kentucky’s 68-66 Elite Eight win over the Irish. “I think Wisconsin also has that ability. They can stretch the floor a little bit with their (big guys) and really pose some issues that could neutralize Kentucky’s length and athleticism around the basket.”
Still, Masiello doesn’t think the Badgers have enough to pull the upset.
“I don’t think they’re going to be beat Kentucky,” he said. “I think Kentucky has that ‘It’ factor. I think they have something about them. You look at what they did at Texas A&M, LSU, Georgia – they’ve been in some tough situations. And the thing that was impressive to me about the Notre Dame game, that was in an elimination game – and they still answered that bell. I really like the way that team’s playing. I think they’re playing really good basketball. I think this time of year, great talent that plays hard has success. I really do. I could be wrong. I think Wisconsin is a terrific basketball team. They’re right there. But I think Kentucky has a little more.”
And then there’s Michigan State, which was 15-8 in February but has since won 12 of its last 15 games, including eight of nine. With wins over Virginia and Louisville, the Spartans are trying to knock off their third ACC team of the tournament.
“I think it’s a great matchup,” Masiello said. “I think it’s a different type of matchup because now you look at Michigan State, who’s kind of known for their blue-collar approach. (They’re a) tough-minded defensive group that will rebound the ball and execute. And then you have a very talented and extremely well-coached Duke team. It’s going to be a terrific, terrific game. I like Duke in that one. I think Dukes moves on and advances. I just think (Jahlil) Okafor is going to be too much for them in the post, and I think Duke’s guard play has been really good. I think Quinn Cook has been playing really good basketball and making some big plays for them.
“But Michigan State’s been on a run,” Masiello continued. “I think every game Michigan State’s gone into, I don’t know if you pick them to win – but they found a way. Being able to advance in this tournament – when you figure things out – is something that really goes a long way. And right now, they believe. That’s a dangerous team, that Michigan State team. But I like Duke.”