The Butler Bulldogs are being portrayed as the under(bull)dogs, and I suppose rightfully so, but is this truly a David vs. Goliath pairing?
To answer this question, consider these facts.
* Butler has won 25-straight games. Their last loss was on Dec. 22 against UAB.
* Gordon Hayward and Sheldon Mack are both likely headed to the NBA, with Hayward potentially ending up as a lottery pick, so while Duke may be the more talented team, Butler stacks up very well in comparison.
* The title game will be played in Lucas Oil Stadium, a mere six minutes from the Butler campus. For all intents and purposes, this is a home game for the Bulldogs, but then again, so too was the 2009 title game in Detroit, where Michigan State found itself being blown-out by North Carolina. Sometimes, in fact most times, the better team wins regardless of the venue.
* Everyone knows about Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer, and Nolan Smith, but Brian Zoubek is an underrated post player for the Blue Devils, and if Butler's Matt Howard misses the game due to the mild concussion he suffered against the Spartans, will Butler be able to stop Zoubek from scoring inside, and more importantly, will the Bulldogs be able to limit Duke from crashing the boards and getting an abundance of second-chance points?
* Duke was considered by most to be the fourth-best No. 1 seed entering the tournament, and considering that Butler has already beaten No. 1 seed Syracuse and No. 2 seed Kansas State, both of whom were ranked as the No. 1 team in the polls at some point during the 2009-2010 regular season, a win over Duke would NOT be all that shocking.
* Finally, this certainly is not the best Duke team Coach K has led to the Final Four, but it is one of his best. This has to be the best Butler team in recent memory, and most likely the best Butler team ever. Both teams are defensive-minded and both like to live by the three. But as the saying goes, live by the three—die by the three.
So who lives and who dies at the end of this battle?
Regardless of the fact that I've been a Duke fan since 1988, my gut tells me Duke is the team that should, and likely, will win—and I'd believe this even if I was one of the millions of Duke haters.
But I also know my college basketball history, which means I know that Butler has much more than just a puncher's chance to win the title, and that's what makes March Madness so great—David has battled, and beaten, Goliath before.
Just ask Duke about its title game appearance vs. "mid-major" UNLV that featured future NBA stars Stacey Augmon and Larry Johnson back in 1990—it was a 103-73 beat-down.
Or ask Georgetown and Patrick Ewing about their stunning loss back in 1985 to another then "mid-major" program, Villanova.
Or perhaps you might ask Houston's Phi Slama Jama squad, which was favored and wasn't exactly the mid-major that it is today, about its 1983 loss to N.C. State and the late, great Jim Valvano. It was one of the most famous endings in a final in all of college basketball history.
Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon were the stars for the Cougars that season, and Olajuwon was the last player to be named the tournment's most outstanding player from the team that lost the title game.
Maybe someday, the NCAA will wisen up and scrap the BCS so that the Butlers of college football can have a chance at making history. Just imagine seeing teams like Boise State, BYU, or TCU playing against and possibly defeating the likes of USC, Florida, Ohio State, Texas, etc.
But that's a whole other article and a rant for another day, so for now, I get back to the topic at hand.
Duke is playing for its fourth title in 12 appearances, while Butler looks to go 1-for-1.
I want Duke to win, and I do think Duke will win, but however it turns out, I can't wait to watch history in the making!
Duke 64, Butler 59
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