Monday, April 05, 2010

Quick Championship Game Preview + Discussion

Anybody who wants to discuss the game tonight, please join me in the comments. And quickly, my own short preview:

Final Four Against The Spread: 1-1
Complete Tournament so far ATS: 35-24-3

Duke (-6.5) over Butler: I've been traveling, which is the reason why my preview isn't up until now. The spread opened at five, and if I was betting my own money I'd have jumped on Duke then. But even with the line ballooning (I've seen a 7 point spread at a few places) I still think Duke is the pick. I'm not going to do a big preview here because I just got home and I have some stuff to do so that I can watch the full game tonight. In addition, I've already broken down both of these teams to death in the earlier rounds (First round here, Second round here and here, Sweet 16 here, Elite 8 here and here, Final Four here).

In a sense, there are three issues here that make Duke the dominating favorite, and only one reason to pick against them. One reason to pick them is rebounding: Butler doesn't force as many turnovers as people think, and it's been their defensive rebounding that has been so important. But Duke is so good at crashing the boards. The second reason is that Butler does not score a lot of points, and they will not hold Duke. As I said for the West Virginia game, Duke is a team that always scores their points. They always get their 70-75. Butler isn't any more imposing than West Virginia. Butler particularly has big problems inside. Michigan State scored basically every time they put the ball in the paint, and so did Kansas State. Both of those teams would have swept the floor against Butler if their guards hadn't panicked and started launching threes, and I just refuse to believe that Duke - the most fundamental major conference basketball team - won't do the right thing and force the ball inside. How does Butler possibly guard the Plumlees, Thomas and Zoubek? And finally, I know that this isn't a statistical argument, but Butler has been so lucky this Tournament, and they're due for an unlucky day. They managed to play a first round opponent that just gave up after halftime. Their second round opponent was Murray State instead of Vanderbilt. In the Sweet 16 they played a Syracuse team missing one of its three most important players and panicked down the stretch. And in both the Elite 8 and Final Four they faced teams that scored every time they put the ball in the paint and for some reason decided to not even try to put the ball inside on 75% of possessions. And on top of that they also got a Kansas State team that had shot out of its mind in their previous two games and then went cold against Butler.

There really isn't any argument for Butler to win straight up other than two things that aren't really arguments: The first is that they're on a magical run and they're the team of destiny. The other (more tangible) reason is that Butler is clearly benefiting from home court. More than the crowd, the officials were just wildly biased in their favor. And as hard as it is for me to back up Tom Izzo about that (I don't think any coach whines about officials more than Izzo), he was right in this particular case. Every close call went against them. But even with those factors, the only way they even have a chance will be if Duke falls for the same trap that Michigan State and Kansas State fell for, and refuses to put the ball inside.

I can hear the argument that the spread is large, and that you don't think Duke will cover it. It's possible Butler will grind this one out and we end up with a 67-61 Duke win or something like that. But I just don't see any way that Duke loses straight up.


Anonymous said...

Wow. What a game!

Anonymous said...

Bummer at the end though. Wouldn't that have been amazing if Hayward got that last shot to go in?

Anonymous said...

Clark Kellog is an idiot. "There are no losers here tonight." What the hell kind of moronic statement is that?

Jeff said...

That last shot was certainly inches from being replayed for the next 200 years. But saying "Clark Kellogg is an idiot" is a redundant sentence, he's the single worst color guy of all eight that CBS has for the Tournament. He contradicts himself constantly and hasn't said something intelligent while commentating a game pretty much ever.

Duke had an atrocious shooting night, which was why the game was so close. Certainly Butler has gotten lucky that none of the teams they played got a hot shooter, but they have to get a big part of the credit for having great perimeter defense.

It was hard not to root for the cinderella story (even though CBS and ESPN were laying on the Hoosiers stuff a bit thick), but I can't build the Duke hatred that other people have. They play basketball the right way, they're very well coached, and they always seem to have good character guys. They deserve the National Championship, even if they did get lucky with an easy region and an easy Championship game opponent (compared to, say, Kansas or Ohio State). But that's how the Tournament is, since Butler had an lucky draw as well. A big part of winning the title is getting lucky with the Selection Committee and upsets around you in the bracket.