(SI.com's resident bracket expert and college hoops guru Andy Glockner weighs in with his thoughts on Michigan State-Butler.)
Final score:Butler 52, MSU 50 -- Yup, the Horizon League champs will play for the national title Monday night. In a really ugly but closely contested game, the Bulldogs did most of what they wanted to -- keep MSU off the offensive glass, win the TO battle, get to the free throw line -- to make up for what they couldn't do: make any shots. Butler advances despite shooting just 30.6 percent from the field and making one field goal in the last 12-plus minutes of the game. Congrats to Brad Stevens and his team. A wonderful defensive effort. MSU scored 28 points in the game's final 30 minutes or so.
We'll be back in a little bit for Game 2
One last thing: Doing this without Shelvin Mack for the second half was a large portion of Butler's offensive woes. Hopefully, he'll be healthy for Monday night.
2:36, Butler 47 MSU 44 -- No, the scoreboard (and blog headers) aren't stuck. This game has just degenerated into a hailstorm of missed shots. Time to be honest: This has been ugly. Butler has four assists on the night in almost 38 minutes and is ahead.
4:19, Butler 47 MSU 43 -- Butler missing multiple chances to stretch the lead out; will it cost the Bulldogs? MSU finally gets to the offensive glass and gets a Morgan putback to end a five-plus minute field goal drought. As poor as MSU's offense has looked, Butler is only 5 of 24 or so from the floor in the second half. If they let this slip away, they'll be kicking themselves for all these point-blank misses. Credit the activity of MSU's defenders for part of the errant aim. It's late enough in the game that they didn't have to be careful anymore, and get paid off with some blocks/alters inside.
(Note: Butler's last made field goal came at the 12:18 mark. We're now with under four minutes left.)
@GregAnthony50 -- Shelvin Mack just went to the locker room. This could be a very ugly final four minutes offensively (as if the last 36 minutes haven't been).
7:46, Butler 46 MSU 41 -- The Spartans are in the midst of their third long FG drought of the game, having missed chippies the last two trips down. The ideas were better, but they need to convert those in a low-possession game where 60 points very well will be enough to win. MSU still with only three offensive rebounds (and Butler with 15 defensive boards), although I don't have team rebounds handy at the moment. Will try to find ...
9:24, Butler 46 MSU 41 -- It's only a five-point lead, but everything is trending against MSU right now. Butler is marching to the free throw line, not turning the ball over at all (one TO in the last 20-plus minutes), keeping MSU off the offensive glass completely and has the Spartans in bad foul trouble. It's too early to say this is over, for sure, but something needs to change quickly for the Spartans. Butler has controlled this game since around halfway through the first half.
10:52 --Wow, big news there with sideline report that Shelvin Mack is sidelined with muscle spasms and there's no word on his availability for the rest of the game. That could be an enormous break for MSU.
11:32, Butler 44, MSU 39 -- Michigan State scored only 11 points over a 15-minute stretch over both halves as the Butler D is starting to choke the life out of the Spartans. Meanwhile, Butler is making a smart and concerted effort to get shots for Howard in the post before he is crippled again with foul trouble ... whoops, too late. There's a cheap third. Let's see how that changes things. MSU can't get to the offensive glass at all and more Butler players are becoming threats on offense. Now three Spartans have three fouls...MSU's interior defense is going to be very questionable for the next handful of minutes. When Lucious isn't in the game, MSU can't even get a shot off. And THAT is a huge moment. A turnover that leads to Morgan's fourth foul AND Butler shooting free throws for the last 12-plus minutes. MSU is in a lot of trouble. This game is getting away from the Spartans, slowly but inexorably.
15:54, Butler 34 MSU 33 -- Noteworthy that all three of Lucious' 3s have come in the first minute of a half? Much like against Tennessee in the regional final, it seems he finds it harder to make jumpers as he wears down over the course of the half. Veasley gets Butler's first hoop from a non-Hayward/Mack shooter at the 18:23 mark. Roe scores over Hayward; MSU needs to keep going at Hayward in the post defensively. Ruh Roe ... silly for Delvon to commit that reach-in foul to stop a fast break with MSU only down one with 17 minutes left. Morgan bricks two free throws, gets very lucky not to get his fourth foul by impeding Howard on a drive, and then travels. Not a great sequence.
MSU 28 Butler 28 -- It's hard to decide whether Butler should be happy the game's tied or very disappointed they're not comfortably in the lead after holding MSU to just six points in the last nine minutes or so of the half. Foul trouble will be a very major concern in the second half. Matt Howard was limited to four minutes so far with two fouls. Veasley also has two for Butler. Raymar Morgan was also a non-factor and has three fouls and Roe and Chris Allen also have two apiece for the Spartans. Hard game to get a feel for. Hayward and Mack have exclusively carried the load for the Bulldogs. MSU flexed its deeper bench, but the tempo shouldn't trouble either team as far as fatigue. Hard contest to call at this point. On to some user questions ...
@MattZemek_CFN -- Which Butler player outside of Mack and Hayward needs to find some scoring punch in the second half?
A: The easy/obvious answer is Howard. He's the Bulldogs' only offensive post presence and he has only played four minutes and hasn't taken a shot. Willie Veasley is a double-digit scorer but more of a glue guy. Butler needs Howard to do something to balance out their offense.
• Speaking of the Howard issue, 14 of Butler's 24 shots have been from 3-point range. They took 40 percent of their field goal attempts from 3 on the season, so that's a measure of how Howard's absence impacted the Bulldogs' offense in the first half.
@EvanLepler --Is it possible that Hayward is best player at the Final Four?
A: Best college player is up for grabs with a number of guys on the four teams in the mix. Best pro prospect? Probably.
3:32, MSU 24 Butler 23 -- Butler doing a much better job of disrupting the MSU offense. Coincidence that it occurs when Mike Kebler is spelling Lucious? The Bulldogs missed some decent looks to take the lead, though. Did not take advantage. Garrick Sherman breaks a 5:41 scoreless spell for MSU and then Hayward rains in another 3. Quite a player. Now, Willie Veasley picks up two quick fouls. MSU's depth is going to start to break Butler if the Bulldogs can't stop fouling inside.
7:26, MSU 22 Butler 20 -- Morgan sees Howard's foolish foul trouble and raises him one, rendering himself useless with three fouls in the first 10 minutes. The depth of both teams could be tested if this continues; MSU has played 10 players already in the first 12 minutes. Meanwhile, MSU has 22 points against the vaunted Butler D. No way Butler wins if that scoring rate holds. Summers has to work harder to find his shots, but the stroke still looks good. Butler is doing a fine job on the defensive glass, though. We'll see if they can maintain that.
11:02, MSU 18 Butler 14 --Raymar Morgan gets called for a second early foul and is replaced by the gimpy Delvon Roe. MSU has depth, but a lot of it is less than 100 percent, so Morgan foul trouble could be an issue. Butler seemingly having some early issues with ball handling/MSU's length and athleticism. Other than the two Gordon Hayward 3s, Butler's offense hasn't generated very much cleanly. A lot was made of the Bulldogs' offense coming in, but statistically, it's the weaker half of their team profile by far. Early on, MSU is winning the battles it needs to win. And there is a bad second foul for Howard. Really needless and not a smart play. The opening eight-plus minutes aren't favorable for Butler. If not for Hayward (10 points) carrying them, the Bulldogs could have been buried early, but they're still right in it.
15:51 mark (1st half), MSU 8 Butler 7 -- Good early signs for both teams. MSU got an offensive rebound on its first possession and it led to a 3 for Korie Lucious, who then doubled his pleasure the next trip down, getting early offense from him before possible tiring could impact his jump shot. Better sign for Butler: Hayward swishing his first two (wide-open) 3s. His perimeter shooting, a very capable part of his game but one in which he was very poor all season, is a huge X-factor in this one. Another early X-factor: Matt Howard picking up a cheap (and questionable) first foul. If Howard can't stay on the floor, Butler will have a hard time balancing their offense.
Possible disaster scenario for MSU, with Lucious seemingly hobbled with an ankle issue. Doesn't look serious, but we'll see coming out of the timeout. An injury to Lucious would blow up all expectations of MSU's offense. Would Draymond Green then get to live the dream as the lead guard?
After a week of hype (and Bulldog feting), the Final Four is upon us. It should be a fascinating pair of contests that could yield any combination of teams advancing to Monday's title game.
The opener should be a test of wills and patience as both Butler and Michigan State are perfectly happy in slow, half-court slogs. Can the Bulldogs keep the long, deep MSU frontcourt off the glass. Will the loss of Kalin Lucas finally undermind the Spartans' attack? Will Tom Izzo have something up his sleeve for rising star Brad Stevens?
A lot of folks are billing the second game as the de facto national championship, but first things first. Can West Virginia win the rebounding duel with surprisingly big and physical Duke? Will Devin Ebanks' defense be the force that disrupts the Blue Devils' attack? Are we due for some more Da'Sean Butler buzzer-beating magic?
All of these questions, and more, will be answered in the next five hours. If you want your question featured in this live blog, hit me on Twitter at @aglock or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.