Duke/Butler Preview

Immediately after the games on Saturday, I wrote the following about tonight’s matchup between Duke and Butler:

Monday night’s matchup will be touted as a David versus Goliath affair, but Duke and Butler are pretty similar in the way they play. Both teams hang their hats on good man-to-man half court defense and efficient, ball-control offense. It should be a low-scoring, tight game. I expect that Duke will be favored by five or six, but Butler is fully capable of pulling the upset. I’m sure the crowd will be pulling for the Bulldogs.

The line started at Duke -7, but has grown to -7.5 with the news that Butler center Matt Howard is questionable to play after suffering the “mildest of mild concussions” (per the Butler trainer). The Bulldogs will need Howard to pull the upset, because Duke is very big down low. Luckily, it looks like Shelvin Mack will play despite missing a good part of the second half against Michigan State with pain in his legs.

Jeff Sagarin pegs Duke as an almost 9-point favorite, so there still is some value with taking the Blue Devils even with the sizable line. Ken Pomeroy gives Duke an 81% chance to win, which is the biggest advantage of any favorite in the tournament since the Wisconsin/Cornell game (and we all know how that turned out).

I’m reluctant to recommend laying the points because Butler has a way of keeping games close. Both teams play at a slow pace, but I have a feeling that Duke will look to push the ball and try to avoid facing the Bulldogs’ excellent man-to-man defense in the half-court. Against West Virginia, Duke won the rebounding battle (+3) and, more importantly, destroyed the Mountaineers from long range (13-25 from 3PT). In fact, they shot almost 53% from the field for the entire game.

To pull the upset, Butler needs to hold its own on the glass and force the Blue Devils to shoot a poor percentage from long range. This is going to be tough to do, especially if Howard is limited or doesn’t play.

These two teams pride themselves on tough defense and good execution on offense. Duke is just a little better at it. Butler should have the crowd on its side, but it’s tough to create much atmosphere at the Final Four and Duke has plenty of experience playing in front of hostile crowds. I see a close game where Duke’s lead oscillates between 3-5 points most of the way and then the Blue Devils may be able to stretch things out if Butler is forced to foul.

As usual, I’ll be tweeting during the game tonight, so be sure to check back at tip-off.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Related Posts