The Butler, Michigan State matchup was everything an NCAA tournament game should be. A packed arena, with an exciting finish. The two 5 seeds played hard, and showed that they were both capable of winning and advancing to the championship game. The only problem is, both Butler and Michigan State had no business being in a position to get in the final four. Neither team has the ability to play with Duke or West Virginia. Monday's match-up between Duke and Butler will put a damper on what was a great tournament because it will be a blow out, and mark the beginning of the collapse of the Butler program.
Butler and Duke are structured similarly. While both teams have multiple scoring threats (Butler has Mack and Hayward, Duke has Scheyer, Singler, and Smith) and both are disciplined. The problem is that since both teams have similar playing styles, almost all of the advantage will go to the Blue Devils. While Butler may be able to out scheme, out work, or out fundamental, more athletic teams; Duke is able to do everything Butler does better. Duke is a BCS version of the mid-major Butler, and will whip the hometown Bulldogs like an older brother pushing around his little brother on the playground.
The only advantage Butler has is the location of this matchup. They will be playing in their own back yards at Lucas Oil Stadium. This should ensure that they get the support of the local crown and they should also have the support of the bipartisan fans who just want to see an upset. Adding to that advantage is the fact that Duke plays horribly on the road. However, this advantage will be a wash. There will be 70,000 fans packed into Lucas Oil, so listen for there to be constant noise coming from the crowd, as oppose to fans screaming at with the intent to distract the visiting team. When you add in the fact that the Devils are use to large crowds and the Bulldogs are not, Duke should feel more at home, than Butler.
After the Bulldogs get trashed by Duke, the Cinderella story will end, and the crap will hit the fan at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Look for Nike and Oregon to steal Brad Stevens away, and the program to return to a run of the mill Horizon League team. It's a fun story, and something that people will be talking about for years to come, but it will all end Monday.
Mid-Majors, like Butler will never be able to continue their prominence in the national ranks because they will always loose their coaches to bigger problems. With players rotating every four years, the only thing that keeps a team intact is the coaching staff. Look at what happened to Penn in 2006. They won 10 Ivy league titles in the 17 years Fran Dumphy was there. He left for Temple, and the Penn program has suffered. The Quakers won the Ivy league the year after Dumphy, but had a lot to do with the fact they were using his players. This year, with all of Dumphy's players gone Penn went 6-22, and finished seventh out of eight teams in the Ivy League. Already this year UTEP lost their coach, Tony Barbee, after one good season. Don't blame the coaches, blame the system. It is hard for these guys to turn down millions and millions of dollars AND a more desirable job. While Butler can hope they get lucky and find another solid coach, like Stevens, waiting in the wings, don't count on it. It's always fun to follow a Cinderella story, but as we will see Monday, eventually the clock hits midnight.
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