Matt Howard, the 6'8" junior center for Butler, will play in tonight's National Championship game against Duke.
After suffering two blows to the head in Saturday's semifinal against Michigan State, Howard was forced to leave the game with what head coach Brad Stevens called the "mildest of concussions."
All indications yesterday were that Howard seemed like he would be fine even though he was forced to sit out of practice, but concussions are tricky injuries to diagnose and require extreme caution. Stevens stressed yesterday that if there was any health risk that Howard would not be allowed to take the floor.
Hours after the team's shootaround earlier this afternoon, however, the team doctors gave Howard the thumbs up to play tonight as long as he remains symptom free.
Howard's presence on the floor should be critical for Butler, which is a 6.5 point underdog to Duke and looking to pull off a historic national championship for a mid-major school.
The junior is the team's third leading scorer and their only real interior frontcourt presence on a roster with no player in the main rotation over 6'9".
Facing off against a Duke team with four players that are 6'10" or taller, including standout 7'1" senior center Brian Zoubek, the Bulldogs will need every big body they can put under the basket for defense and for offensive rebounding.
While Howard will start the game, he will still need to keep himself on the court. That has been a problem throughout the tournament as he has gotten himself into early foul trouble in every game aside from the first round contest against UTEP and has barely managed to play in 20 minutes each game.
Nevertheless, the junior will have a chance to play in the biggest game of his life tonight and perhaps redeem himself for what has been a bit of a disappointing tournament on personal level despite his team's success.