And Then There Were Two—Butler vs. Duke
posted at 8:52 am on April 4, 2010 by Rovin
It all began on March 18th, when Danero Thomas threw up a 15-footer at the buzzer as 13th-seeded Murray State stunned No. 4 seed Vanderbilt 66-65. Other upsets, along the way, were No.10 Saint Mary’s stunning No. 2 Villanova behind Omar Samhan’s 32 point performance and No. 9 Northern Iowa over No. 1 seeded Kansas. With West Virginia knocking off Kentucky there was only one number one seed left in the tournament, and that was Duke who rolled over the Mountaineers in the second game last night, 78-57. The Blue Devils rained in three-pointers all night long and crashed the boards for second chance shots to pull away from a crippled West Virginia team in the second half.
Stewart Mandel at Sports Illustrated thought both games would be close and thrilling:
“Vegas seems to think we’re in for a pair of good ones. Butler is listed as a one-point favorite over Michigan State, Duke a two-and-a-half point favorite on the Mountaineers. Either result, were it to actually occur by that margin, would be thrilling for the 70,000-plus spectators Saturday — myself included.”
Mandel was only half right, and Vegas was too, as a stubborn Butler team held off Michigan State 52-50 to earn a trip to the finals Monday night. But while Duke’s crushing defeat of WVU was not predicted, Butler has now reached a pinnacle of not allowing any foe in the tourney to reach 60 points. Cinderella? Hardly. David vs. Goliath? I don’t think so. The under-ranked No. 5 Bulldogs have now beaten Syracuse, Kansas State and a tough Michigan State for the right to face Duke in the finals. Mandel also noted after last night’s games how quickly “hall of fame” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski put the kibosh on the David v Goliath tagline:
“It didn’t take long into his postgame press conference for Coach K to begin debunking the David vs. Goliath storyline.
“They’re one of the best teams in the country,” he said of the 33-4 Bulldogs. “I think Cinderella would be if somebody had eight, nine losses and pulled some upsets, stuff like that. … They’ve beaten Syracuse and Kansas State and Michigan State.”
Would a Butler win over Duke be considered an upset?
The Blue Devils have averaged 73 points in the tournament, while the Bulldogs have allowed an average of 55 points in their respective five games, beat No. 1 Syracuse that averaged 85 points in their last seven games, and held a Kansas State team to only 56, which averaged 80 points in their last ten games. Something will have to give on Monday night. The early Vegas line has Duke by seven. I wouldn’t bet on it.