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NCAA Final Four: One Last Look Ahead

This story was written by CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish

No more press conferences, tours of Hinkle Fieldhouse, or stories about Bob Huggins' past, future or closet full of windbreakers. We're done with the Tom-Izzo-is-a-genius segments, done with the Duke-isn't-all-that-despicable columns, done asking about Truck Bryant's foot and Kalin Lucas' Achilles, done wondering what it would be like to have Kansas or Kentucky here at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The time for talking has passed.

Now it's time to play.

First up is Butler-Michigan State.

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Then comes Duke-West Virginia.

The Final Four is here.

Let's do one last Final Four Look Ahead.

Full NCAA Tournament coverage at CBSSports.com

Butler vs. Michigan State

Tipoff: 6:07 p.m. ET Records: Butler 28-4, Michigan State 28-8 Favorite: Butler (-1)

Butler will win if ... Gordon Hayward looks like a possible lottery pick, Shelvin Mack makes shots like he did against UTEP, Matt Howard is active while avoiding foul trouble, and if the loss of Kalin Lucas finally seems like it matters to Michigan State. As long as the Bulldogs play like they played against Syracuse and Kansas State, they'll be fine. But what they can't do is get overwhelmed by the moment, start playing out of character and panic. This is a big stage for anybody, but it's especially big for a Horizon League school in its hometown. How Butler handles the atmosphere will be just as important as how it handles Michigan State.

Michigan State will win if ... Butler looks up and realizes it's on CBS, in the Final Four and surrounded by 75,000 people. Though I don't typically subscribe to the theory, I do think the fact that Michigan State has "been here" and Butler has not might matter, at least early on. Brad Stevens has been consistent in preaching to his team the importance of staying focused and playing within themselves, but it's easier said than done, particularly against a Michigan State team that's still dangerous and tough despite the loss of Lucas, last year's Big Ten Player of the Year. Plus, there's the Izzo factor. He's got the Spartans this far. There's no reason he can't get them farther.

The actual winner will be ... Butler.

CBSSports.com: Final Four Matchups:

(CBS/ AP)
Who Has Edge? Michigan State Vs. Butler
Video: Michigan State Vs. Butler Breakdown
Video: Michigan St. NCAA Tournament Highlights
Video: Butler NCAA Tournament Highlights
Who Has Edge? Duke Vs. West Virginia
Video: Duke Vs. West Virginia Breakdown
Video: Duke NCAA Tournament Highlights
Video: W. Va. NCAA Tournament Highlights

Duke vs. West Virginia

Tipoff: 8:47 p.m. ET Records: Duke 33-5, West Virginia 31-6 Favorite: Duke (-2.5)

Duke will win if ... Duke plays with the same type of physicality it showed in last week's win over Baylor. The Blue Devils must rebound like they're capable of rebounding (they are statistically one of the top 10 offensive rebounding teams in the nation), like they rebounded last week to come from behind and beat Scott Drew's Bears. And Kyle Singler has to show up. That's crucial. Duke getting past Baylor with Singler going 0 of 10 from the field was incredible, and extremely fortunate. But they won't be able to do that against these Mountaineers.

West Virginia will win if ... the Mountaineers somehow force Duke into the same kind of shooting performance that doomed Kentucky last weekend. Duke is better than most realize on the interior, but not good enough to win with a bad shooting performance. So WVU needs to make things difficult for Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith while also ensuring that Joe Mazzulla stays out of foul trouble because Truck Bryant won't be available. Da'Sean Butler's role is also huge, of course. He's looked like an All-American in parts of this NCAA tournament, but he's missed 22 of his past 31 field goal attempts. Simply put, Butler must be better.

The actual winner will be ... West Virginia.

Final thought: Though I'm picking Butler and West Virginia to advance to Monday's title game, it's worth pointing out that I picked Butler to lose in the first round and had Kentucky -- the team West Virginia beat last week -- winning the championship when I filled out my bracket on Selection Sunday. In other words, I've been pretty wrong about this tournament, just like the rest of the country. So any predictions you read should be taken for what they're worth, and they seem to be worth nothing in this event, if not less.

What do I want?

I want two good games.

I want two one-possession games inside the final four minutes.

So consider that my third prediction of the day: Two good games.

I don't care if I'm right on the first two predictions.

But I hope I'm right on the third.

For more from Gary Parrish, check him out on Twitter: @GaryParrishCBS

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