There's really no reason not to pick Duke tonight, unless you have a strong gut feeling the other way or just love a good Cinderella story. The home city advantage Butler has is real, but we also saw last year how much good it did Michigan State against North Carolina. What interests me more in sizing up this game is finding a reasonable scenario under which the Bulldogs can pull it out.
From a strategic standpoint, Butler needs to pick their poision, and I'd roll the dice and make Duke beat me from the outside.Now the Blue Devils buried their treys left and right on Saturday and while they almost certainly won't be that hot again tonight, Scheyer, Smith and Singler all have good track records as outside shooters. But Brad Stevens needs to have a certain amount of fatalism when making his strategy. Duke has to play below its profile in at least one
area, in a way that Butler really can't control. The percentages say it's best to take your chances that they'll have an off-night from the outside. If they stay hot, they're going to win regardless of how many strings the Butler coaching staff pulls. The key is finding a way to win if they cool off.
Butler then must rebound the basketball. Remember, rebounding is key to Duke's three-point shooting. The big bangers--Zoubek, the Plumlee brothers, etc, will get an offensive board and kick it right back out for another three. Boxing out is an absolute imperative and beating the Dookies to long rebounds is another. Baylor and West Virginia didn't do either one in the regional final and on Saturday. If Butler does this things, it's no guarantee they'll win--Coach K's team played good defense against WVA and will surely bring their top effort again tonight. But containing the outside shooting of the Devils and preventing second shots will give the
Bulldogs a puncher's chance.
The media would surely love a Butler victory. Over the past few years, they've taken stories like the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry and the Brett Favre retirement sagas and beat them to death beyond all recognition, so we are about due for another good story that we can be completely smothered with and made sick of. The re-enactment of the movie Hoosiers in real life would be a good candidate. But I don't see it happening tonight.
See you tomorrow to rehash the game. Earlier today The Baseball Notebook previewed some of the key series of the early part of Opening Week.