Actually, the fact of the matter is that I’m no expert on either of these two teams. I watched both Final Four games, sure, but I really can’t name any players on either team. Duke looks to be the more dominating team, considering how easily they dispatched West Virginia, who was a two-seed. Compare that with Butler, who struggled mightily just to be a five-seed in Michigan State. But I don’t really care about any of that. What’s important to me is the storyline.
Sports journalists love the storyline. The little tidbits of trivia and trend that imbue any particular game with more meaning than that of the game itself. And this game has a great storyline. Butler is the hometown team, playing in a stadium that’s a mere 15-minute drive from their own campus; Duke is a powerhouse basketball franchise with a head coach who’s won an Olympic gold medal working with professional athletes. Butler graduates have played in a total of 166 NBA games combined; Duke graduates have played in almost a hundred times as many games. And Butler was barely ranked this season; Duke is a one-seed. Butler is Cinderella or David. Duke is Goliath. The storylines for this game are spectacular.
And for that reason alone, I’m rooting for Butler. Generally, I don’t go in for the schmaltzy stuff. It’s cheesy and, like I said, it has no bearing on the game whatsoever. But this time I’ve successfully been sucked in to the hype. Not that I think Butler WILL win. I just want them TO win. It’s their first NCAA championship game, it’s being played in Indianapolis, and the school is where “Hoosiers” was filmed. How do you not vote for them?
That being said, Butler has some tremendous problems they will have to overcome. Two of their biggest stars in Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard are game-time decisions. Without them, Butler lacks a lot in shooting and rebounding. And rebounding is their biggest asset. Duke rebounds offensively very well, whereas Butler does it defensively. But without Howard they’re going to have a much harder time doing it. Duke may also play to put Howard in foul trouble, and Butler lacks a backup who can really rise to the occasion.
So in the end, I’m picking Duke to win this thing. They just seem to be bigger and badder than Butler is. They’re the Big Bad Wolf and Butler is the three little pigs. The only question is whether or not Butler’s team is built of straw or of bricks. They’re a strong team, definitely, with some very good play makers. The problem is Duke has these too. And I think if the MSU game is any indication, Butler is going to be tight in this game. I see a lot of shots going awry for Butler and just missing the mark. Meanwhile, I see Duke playing calmly and collectedly. I don’t think Butler will get blown out, I actually see them getting an early-game lead. But look for Coach K’s superior coaching to become a factor in the second half as Duke slowly pulls away and turns Cinderella back into a pumpkin (or however the story goes). That’s how I see it going: early Butler lead, followed by dominant Duke second half, leading to an NCAA title. I just hope I’m wrong.