When the season began many thought Duke and Butler were going to be good, possibly Final Four good. Not many thought they would be playing for the title tonight. Conspiracy theorists have united against the hated program that is Duke. The same people who said their road was paved out for them also had them going out before Indianapolis. I am no Dukie and I loathe the flopping manequin defense and the moving screens of Thomas and Zoubek, but if the Blue Devils win tonight they win. I mean that the banner will go up in Cameron, Coach K will continue to be fellated by the media, and the record books will state 2010 belonged to Duke. Despite a Lance Thomas elbow to the face of Joe Mazzula in Saturday night's semifinal, Duke is viewed by its fans as a paragon of the seedy world of college basketball. Where fans say it was just an elbow, detractors can rewind the video and see Thomas measuring the blow and then nailing Mazzula in the face. A Duke win will not be easy for people to swallow (myself included), hell Catfish has lost enough hair over this, but a win is a win and a title is a title.
On the other side we see Butler as a longshot. This is the first game where I think Butler had little chance. First concern is Matt Howard, who is concussed but should play. Even if he does he will probably pick up 2 fouls faster than Jim Nantz can spin a witty anecdote or read a Masters promo. One certain thing is that Butler needs to hit their open shots to have any hope tonight. In the semifinal they were fortunate enough to have the Spartans also struggle from the field. Duke's scorers cannot be banked on to have all 3 be cold and in fact in their semifinal all 3 were on. If players like Veasley, Jukes , and Hahn can hit the open jumpers, the Bulldogs can stay close.
One last note on Butler. The all-knowing Dick Vitale took a jab at Butler after Saturday's game by saying they were able to beat teams that were not at full strength, pointing to Syracuse's Onuaku and Michigan State's Kalin Lucas. Fair enough if Dickie V wants to play that game, but let's look at who he picked to win Saturday: the Spartans. So he wants to give an excuse to two teams he had beating Butler, yet he picked those teams to beat the Bulldogs despite the injuries. It is all part of the fun of his March picks. Vitale jumped the shark for me 11 years ago when he picked UConn in his preseason magazine number 1 and said they would cut the nets down. Then Duke had a seemingly unstoppable run in the tourney until they met UConn and lost the title and wouldn't you know Vitale flipped on his pick and chose Duke. And that is way too many words to waste on him.
We think Duke wins this game, and by double digits. Now would be as great a time as any for a pleasant surprise.