NCAA Title Game Preview


lucas oil stadium

By Paul M. Banks

INDIANAPOLIS- 2010 has been perhaps the most exciting NCAA Tournament in recent memory. This March madness is yet another example of why the college hoops postseason is the best postseason around. It doesn’t need fixing; college football’s pathetic excuse for a postseason does.

The run up to this Final Four featured comebacks, upsets, and many incredibly close games.  And will the title game be the grandest of all? Will we, to quote Vanessa Williams, “save the best for last?” Probably not. These are definitely two good teams, but don’t be surprised if Duke wins by 15+

Better the Devil you know Saturday Night

Where was this team all tournament? When Duke gets all three of their top weapons -Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith, and Kyle Singler- together firing on all cylinders on the same night, they are better than ANY team you know about. Seriously, Coach K’s team is scary good in this scenario, and Saturday was just such an example.

And his best player in the purest sense (Smith) is really a bit of an afterthought because the Eastern Seaboard Programming Network spends so much time extolling the virtues of the white superstars Singler and Scheyer instead. But the college basketball cognoscenti (people like you who read this right blog) already know all about him.

Duke won their first national title here in Indy in 2001, they’re 42-8 as a #1 seed and 20-1 at neutral sites over the past two years. Duke has received 11 #1 seeds since the seeding process began in 1979.duke cheerleaders

The Blue Devils may be more talented, but there are some noticeable similarities between Duke and Butler, as Scheyer said yesterday.

“They really have great help-side defense and you really can’t penetrate and get all of the way most of the time because they have a couple of guys helping and slapping at the ball. They have really active hands, so they get a lot of turnovers that way. So, obviously, that’s the biggest similarity between the two teams, the way they help and they also have really good on-the-ball defenders.”

If I hear “the Butler did it” one more time…..

Forget what the neophytes in your office pool are telling you- THIS IS NOT A CINDERELLA STORY! ESPN IS DEAD WRONG WITH THEIR PROPAGANDA! No team that held the #8 national ranking in the country right before the tourney started, and ran the table in their conference season can EVER be labeled a Cinderella. GOT IT???!!!

The Bulldogs are no true #5 seed. They should have been at least a #3, but the avaricious NCAA seeding committee didn’t see enough dollar signs in the Bulldogs getting here so them potentially having an easier road was not in there best interests. Therefore, Butler (and Northern Iowa is a good example as well) go shafted in their seeding. The dogs played as rough a pre-conference schedule as anybody and are peaking in March now partially because of it.

Duke forward Lance Thomas agrees with me. I asked him how he reacts to hearing the Cinderella label constantly applied to Butler.

“I laugh. That doesn’t make sense. They’re not a team that was a #16 seed that fought their way to the national championship,” Thomas said.

“They’ve been a dominant team all year- 25 straight wins, we don’t even have that. And previous schools that played them, slept on ‘em,” he continued.

The Bulldogs will continue to rely heavily on forward Gordon Hayward and guard Shelvin Mack for the bulk of their scoring Monday night. It would probably help a lot if Avery Jukes and Willie Veasley had breakout games tonight as well. All in all, their best chance at victory will hinge on somehow holding Duke’s big guns to 33% or less shooting. They’ll have to play the best defense of their lives tonight.

But this point in the tournament, you’ve no doubt gotten sick of announcer and analysts using the same terminology over and over again. So this may have been my favorite question asked this weekend.

“We’ve heard the phrase ‘Butler Way’ about 300 times the last week. What does that mean?

Actually, I feel like I’ve heard it (and the phrase “we just play Butler Basketball”) about 300,000 times.

Starting guard Ronald Nored answered “For me, it means you can see with our team, sacrificing yourself for one another. There’s 15 guys on the team, five coaches, four managers, athletic trainers, doctors. We’re all sacrificing for each other.”

Center Matt Howard, who may miss the title game with a concussion chimed in, “The word we use a lot in correspondence with the ‘Butler Way’ is accountability. If you’re accountable for yourself, you’re not going to do something that’s going to hurt your team, your university, anything like that.”

So there you go, now let us put “the Butler way” cliché to rest.

final four

Howard’s backup Andrew Smith may get to become the hero Monday night if the Bulldogs are going to pull the 6.5 point upset. But don’t rely on that. Tonight will be the first time that any Horizon League team has played for the national title, and it’s the third time a #5 seed plays in the final game. Both of the previous #5 seeds, 2002 Indiana and 2000 Florida, lost.

Nevertheless, Butler’s run has already done a TON for their program. Butler’s coach Brad Stevens answered a question about the Final Four’s financial impact on the school.

“I read about what it did for George Mason back in 2006 or whenever, when they got the free advertising or free exposure…I hope that it can be a positive window for people to see Butler,” Stevens said.

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