Monday, April 5, 2010

Butler and Duke in the Finals

Butler-MSU Stats                Duke-WV Stats

When the season started in the fall, Coach Brad Stevens told his team, "why not us in the championship game", as he later said he didn't know if he believed it when he said it, but obviously his players did as Butler (33-4) riding a 25 game winning streak that precedes the last time Santa left the north pole, enters the NCAA Championship Game after slaying the likes of #1 Syracuse, #2 Kansas State and now #5 Michigan State, the 2009 NCAA Runner-Up.  Butler with Gordon Hayward, who looks like he's still in high school, playing for Coach Stevens, who looks like he just graduated high school have manhandled and controlled their prophetic destiny to the finals by playing gritty, smothering defense and out rebounding opponents, while limiting possessions and controlling the clock.  The 52-50 victory over MSU was indicative of the entire run in the tournament, contenting to hold all opponents under 60 points.  The Bulldogs held the Spartans to zero fast break points, and out rebounded the Spartans on the offensive glass.  Even when Butler could not find a field goal in approximately ten minutes, their defense stifled MSU for eight minutes to maintain the slim but controlling lead right through to the end.  Late in the game, with Butler holding a slim lead 52-49, after Ronald Nored's two free throws with 6 seconds to go.  Following an ensuing timeout, Coach Stevens set up a smothering defense that would intentionally foul with 2.5 seconds to go sending Korie Lucious to the line where he would make one and intentionally missed the other, but Hayward would grab his 9th rebound to go with 19 points to preserve the victory and keep the Butler Cinderella script alive.

Duke on the other hand was always one run away from a blowout of West Virginia, who was also riddled with a few injuries that hampered their ability to win without a near mistake free game against a team that was fundamentally sound, played athletically superior and was well coached and prepared by the legendary Mike Krzyzewski.  While Duke received little productivity from its bench in comparison to WV Head Coach Bob Huggins, whose bench provided 14 points and 4 rebounds in 27 combined minutes from three players, while Coach K 4 points and 3 rebounds from the primary three reserves Miles and Mason Plumlee and Andre Dawkins in 27 minutes between the three.  But it was the now recognized "Big Three", Kyle Singler (21 pts, 9 rebs & 5 asts), Jon Scheyer (23 pts, 6 asts & 2 stls) and Nolan Smith (19 pts & 6 asts) that provided 81% of the team's offense in putting the Mountaineers away relatively easy after De Shaun Butler went down with a knee injury for the remainder of the game with just under 9 minutes to go and the Blue Devils guarding a 9 point lead.  Duke's aggressive defense generated only 10 turnovers, but challenged shot after shot, allowing only 41% shooting and limited WV to 9 offensive rebounds, but only 8 second chance points.  Duke on the other hand had 11 offensive rebounds and 16 second chance points to go with its' 53% shooting and only 5 turnovers.  Coach K moves on to now his 8th championship game, looking for his 4th title Monday night against Butler.

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