Tudor's Take: Duke vs. Butler

Staff columnistApril 4, 2010 

— Indianapolis - It took Mike Krzyzewski less than 10 minutes to dispute the suggestion that Butler is a Cinderella team entering Monday’s NCAA championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“To me, a Cinderella team would be one that has lost eight or nine games,” the Duke coach said after his team’s 78-57 semifinal win over West Virginia.

“Butler beat Kansas State and Syracuse. They’re a really good team. I don’t see it as a surprise that they’re where they are.”

The Horizon League champion Bulldogs (33-4) struggled offensively but had enough left at the end of turn back Michigan State of the Big Ten, 52-50.

“We’re going to have to play better with the ball on Monday,” said Butler star Gordon Hayward, who led the win with 19 points and nine rebounds. “Michigan State is a really tough defensive team that plays tough denial. We couldn’t get any momentum going for long stretches the way we needed to.”

Stopping the 6-9 Hayward, a sophomore, will be a defensive priority for the ACC champ Blue Devils (34-5).

The assignment probably will fall to Duke senior Lance Thomas. Inside, the Devils’ Brian Zoubek will have a challenge against 6-10 Matt Howard, who had only four points against the Spartans but has been a reliable scorer in the NCAA.

A turning point for Butler was when guards Shelvin Mack, Ron Nored and Willie Veasley opened the second half by penetrating the lane. Most of the first half, the Bulldogs attempted to work the perimeter with Hayward and Mack taking almost all of the shots.

“We have a lot of things we’re capable of doing on offense, but we have to do a better job of executing,” Mack said. “I think we’ll be more comfortable Monday. There were some nerves tonight for both teams, I think.”

It’s for sure the Bulldogs will have a world of support. Of the 71,298 fans at Saturday’s games, at least 50-60 percent were vocally behind the hometown team.

A school from the basketball-mad state hasn’t won the NCAA since Bob Knight’s 1987 Indiana team.

caulton.tudor@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8946

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