National Championship Preview: Butler Vs. Duke
David faces Goliath in a monumental game for both basketball programs
Tonight at 9:21 p.m. in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, the 64th and final game of the 2010 NCAA Tournament will top off.
The finals matchup is as unlikely as the tournament has been in general.
Butler, a 5th seed out of the Horizon League, a mid-major conference, beat UTEP, Murray State, Syracuse, Kansas State, and then Michigan State Saturday night to make it to the championship game.
Duke, a one seed out of the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference), one of the "power" conferences in the nation, beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff, California, Purdue, Baylor, and in the second game of the Saturday night double header, beat West Virginia to earn a place in the Final.
On the surface, it seems as though these two schools are nothing alike, but they have more in common than you think.
Both teams emphasize rebounding the ball on the offensive and defensive glass.
Both teams play superb team defense for 40 minutes.
Both teams survived close calls in the tournament, with Butler winning by two points against Murray State and Michigan State, and Duke winning out late against Baylor in the Elite Eight.
And maybe most importantly, both teams have excellent graduation rates, as well as students who want to get their degree.
However, the comparisons end there.
Butler, the hometown heroes (their campus is located just six miles away from Lucas Oil Stadium, sight of the Final Four), have the chance to win their 1st ever national championship, and etch their name in Indiana basketball lore.
Nine of the 15 players on the roster are from Indiana, and their style of play, "The Butler Way", is reminiscent of the way Indiana Hoosier teams played back in the 70's and 80's.
The Bulldogs, who normally play their home games in the storied Hinkle Fieldhouse (scenes from the iconic movie Hoosiers were shot there), are on a 25 game winning streak, the longest in the nation.
They are coached by Brad Stevens, who became the second youngest coach to make it to the championship game at age 33 (behind former IU coach Branch McCracken, whom the court at Assembly Hall is named for. He won the 1940 NCAA Championship at age 31.).
Stevens was hired in 2007, and since then, the Bulldogs have made three NCAA Tournaments in a row and won the Horizon League three times on the trot.
Duke, on the other hand, are no strangers to the Final Four. This is their 15th Final Four in history, and they have won three National Championships.
However, its their first Final Four since 2004, and the current senior class of guard Jon Scheyer, center Brian Zoubek, and forward Lance Thomas have endured a first round exit in 2006, a second round exit in 2007, and a sweet sixteen exit in 2008.
Finally, renowned head coach Mike Krzyzewski (former player and assistant for Bobby Knight at Army and for a year at Indiana, has coached Duke for 29 years) has his team playing with supreme confidence and poise, and the Blue Devils have won 16 of their last 17 games.
Duke won the ACC this season, demolished arch rival North Carolina by 32 in their final home game, and shot their way to an ACC Tournament title.
For all 15 players on each team, the Final Four is a new experience, and rightfully so, the National Championship game will be the biggest in their young lives.
Will the young Bulldogs fight and will their way to their first title, or will the seasoned Blue Devils bring another banner back to Durham, North Carolina?
Those questions will be answered tonight, when the referee throws the basketball skyward a 9:21 p.m. tonight.
Watch the game tonight on tv on CBS or online on www.mmod.ncaa.com
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