Monday, April 5, 2010

Five things to watch in NCAA title game

INDIANAPOLIS -- A surging Duke team is set to play heavy underdog and hometown favorite Butler at 9:21 p.m. today in the NCAA title game.

The Blue Devils (34-5) have an overwhelming size advantage and a coach in Mike Krzyzewski who possesses a lot of experience in big games, as he's in his 11th Final Four and chasing his fourth NCAA title. Butler (33-4) has a pesky defense, good 3-point shooters and a young coach in 33-year-old Brad Stevens who appears to be a rising star.

Here are five things to watch in the NCAA title game:

1. Kyle Singler vs. Gordon Hayward: These two guys might not guard each other much, but their size and skill sets are extraordinarily similar.

Hayward is 6-foot-9 and Singler is 6-8, and both can score on the drive and from 3-point range.

"There's a lot of 6-8 guys that can shoot the three now, a lot of them," Stevens said. "The difference between most of those guys and Singler and Gordon are that they can floor it and go either direction. They can get by guys on the bounce, they can post, they can just play. They play like 6-1 guys. They have great, great ability."

2. Duke's ball security. Butler's 12 steals against Michigan State were one shy of the team's season high.

The Bulldogs create a lot of their offense off opponents' turnovers, and Duke had problems in the first half of a regional semifinal game against Purdue, a similarly gritty halfcourt defensive team.

In the last three games against Syracuse, Kansas State and Michigan State, Butler has 33 total steals. But Duke's ballhandlers, especially guard Jon Scheyer, are usually good at protecting the basketball.

3. Homecourt advantage: Indianapolis is abuzz with excitement over small-school Butler's remarkable run to the championship game to face traditional power Duke.

The crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium tonight will be overwhelmingly pulling for the underdog. The good thing for Duke is that it faces hostile crowds every time it travels.

The bad thing for Duke is that it never plays in front of a hostile crowd as large as the 71,000-plus who are expected to pack the arena tonight.

4. Coaching matchup. Krzyzewski has found ways to push the right buttons throughout the tournament for Duke, especially with halftime adjustments.

In the Purdue win, he challenged the Blue Devils to catch the ball strong so they would be ready to attack the scrappy Boilermakers' defense. Against Baylor, he told the players that they had become so preoccupied with attacking a zone defense that they'd forgotten to defend and rebound.

Butler, meanwhile, gets a lot of its energy and can-do spirit from the youthful Stevens, who's 30 years younger than Krzyzewski.

5. Big vs. small. Duke starts three players 6-foot-8 or taller, plus a 6-5 point guard in Jon Scheyer. Three Butler starters are smaller than 6-4.

The Blue Devils will try to park 7-foot-1 center Brian Zoubek on the low block on the weak side while his teammates fire up jumpers so that he can grab any shots they miss and create extra opportunities for Duke. And Butler's guys won't be strong enough to move him.

Butler will counter on offense by trying to make Zoubek guard a smaller player on the perimeter.

Ken Tysiac


N. Spyre said...
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N. Spyre said...

Coach Krzyzewski has used a great rouse for his team this year: Zoubek. His outlet passes have opened the door to many open and uncontested three point shots. The reason? double and triple team traps collapse on Zoubek whenever he touches the ball especially at the top of the key. Remove the trap, clog his opportunity to outlet pass, force him to put the ball on the floor or make short range jumpers and watch the demantling of the Blue Devil rouse begin.

Anonymous said...

Go, Butler! Want the underdog to win first title. Would be awesome!!!!