Butler Takes On Duke In NCAA Championship Game Version of “David vs. Goliath”

April 4th, 2010 – by Jimmy

When Duke and Butler collide Monday night in the NCAA Tournament Championship, it will truly be a David vs. Goliath matchup.

Butler, a small school located in Indianapolis, Indiana, has a student body of around 4,500 students with an endowment of around $113 million. Butler’s home state, Indiana, is s state with a rich tradition in college basketball, but not necessarily with the Butler Bulldogs. Previously, the Indiana Hoosiers have been the team having success in the NCAA Tournament, but Monday night may change all of that. Before now, the most notable thing Butler has been known for is their home arena, Hinkle Fieldhouse. Named after former coach Tony Hinkle, the fieldhouse was primary setting for the hit basketball movie “Hoosiers.” A Men’s NCAA Basketball National Championship would put Butler in the record books forever.

On the other side of the tracks, Duke has a student body numbering over 13,000 with an endowment of $4.4 billion, yes, that is billion. Located in Durham, North Carolina, Duke is a private school, and is very well funded because of their well known medical school. Duke is a charter member of the ACC, and has a large following known as the “Cameron Crazies” which is a play on Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke’s home court. North Carolina’s basketball history is as rich as Indiana’s, but not necessarily with Duke. Before breaking through in 1991 for their first national title, Duke had been runner up four times. Always the bridesmaid and never the bride, Duke had always played second fiddle to their rival, the University of North Carolina Tarheels.

Despite having a smaller student body, the Bulldogs are sure to have many more cheering for them when they face the Duke Blue Devils. Despite being located just miles from the site of the NCAA Tournament Championship game, everything about Butler screams underdog in this matchup, which may be the reason why they will gain so many fans for this game. In addition, people love to hate Duke, just as they do the Yankees, the Lakers, or any other successful franchise/university.

The Duke Blue Devils have been the model for consistency. Year in and year out they’re among the nation’s elite, and are always included in the national title picture at the beginning of the season. Duke is without a doubt a traditional powerhouse, and their leader, head coach Mike Krzyzewski is a big reason for that. Coach K is regarded as one of the best, if not the best coach in the nation. His reputation alone is enough to lure the best high school recruits from around the country to come to Duke, the complete antithesis of Butler’s program.

The Butler program is lead by head coach Brad Stevens. At only 33 years of age, Stevens is one of the youngest head coaches in Division I collegiate basketball. Despite only being on the job for three years, Stevens has already earned the right to play for the National Championship. In fact, Stevens has won more games than any other coach in history over the course of the first 3 seasons of his career, 91-14. While Stevens doesn’t have the reputation Krzyzewski possesses, something must be said about his knowledge of the game, and evaluating talent.

So for one, this will be their first chance at a NCAA National Championship, and the other will be looking to collect it’s fourth championship. This will be the biggest stage the Bulldogs have ever seen, while Duke has been there 9 times before, but never with this class.

Even though Butler may appear to be in over their heads, their path to the championship game would indicate otherwise. En route, Butler took down UTEP (12), Murray State (13), Syracuse (1), Kansas State (2), and Michigan State (5). Since the Sweet 16 on, the Bulldogs have only beaten three teams with legitimate hopes of winning a national title, they belong.

As for Duke, the Blue Devils had a fairly easy route to the title game. Situated as the #1 seed in the South region, the Blue Devils had to go through Arkansas-Pine Bluff (16), Cal (8), Purdue (4), Baylor (3), and West Virginia (2). Duke did what good teams do, beat the teams they’re supposed to.

So, how do these two match up? From all appearances, they appear to be somewhat similar. Their lineup and build are alike, and both feature good defense. Good defense is going to be something Butler must have to slow down the three headed offensive attack of Duke’s Scheyer, Singler, and Smith.

Leading the Blue Devils is G Jon Scheyer. With 18.2 ppg, and shooting 38% from outside the arc, Butler must key on Scheyer. If Butler does shut down Scheyer, G Nolan Smith will look to pick up the slack on the outside. Smith is nearly 40% outside the arc, and averages almost one point less per game than Scheyer with 17.4 ppg. In addition, Duke will have F Kyle Singler in the post. Singler is second on the team with 17.6 ppg while averaging just under 7 rebounds per game. Most of Duke’s offense goes through these three, and the Butler defense will have it’s hands full.

Looking at the Bulldogs, they’re no slouch either. With four players averaging double digits in points, Duke will not be able to contain just one player and win the game. G/F Gordon Hayward and G Shelvin Mack lead the Bulldog offense with 15.5 and 14.2 ppg respectively. In addition, Hayward works the glass well, cleaning up 8.2 rebounds per game. F Matt Howard plays solid minutes for the Bulldogs averaging 11.8 ppg and 5.3 rebounds per game. Along side of Howard is F Willie Veasley who averages 10.1 ppg, and 4.3 rpg. G Ronald Nored runs the offense and averages 3.7 assists per game. As shown, there is no “one” key to the Butler offense, and there are plenty of scoring options provided that Butler can stay out of foul trouble.

Looking at Las Vegas, the oddsmakers have placed the Bulldogs as underdogs in this matchup. This news comes as no surprise to anyone. Duke was expected to be favored, especially with their pedigree and Coach K’s tournament resume. Some online sportsbooks have officially listed the odds for this contest with Butler getting 6.5 points from Duke. As listed at BetUS, other NCAA Tournament Championship Betting Lines have the over/under for this game listed at 129 points.

How does the line translate into odds? Also at BetUS, money-lines have been seen for both teams. For Butler, a straight up win over Duke pays out +260, or 13 to 10 odds. On the other side, the odds for a straight up Duke victory has been determined to be 5 to 16, or -360. Typically, lines change as the game approaches, so exact odds may change in either direction. Other College Basketball Prop Bets will be released shortly.

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