As I talked about after the game on Saturday I just don’t like Duke. They are justified favorites tonight, and the price isn’t unfair, but I just can’t stand the thought of backing them. I’ll be cheering (hard) for Butler, and over the last couple of days I have come up with five reasons to justify that, and to justify a bet against the evil empire.
1. Streak – This is a team that has won 25 games in a row. That’s really something – regardless of who they play. They haven’t done that with overwhelming athleticism or depth, but by attention to fundamentals, consistent effort, and excellent coaching. They are a very tough team to prepare for, and a tough team to exploit. It might be hard to see how they are going to win this one, or even keep it close enough to cover, but the same could be said before this, and they find a way.
2. Home court – The impact of the home court is going to be far more significant than it was last time. A lot of the fans who were around for the two eliminated teams will have sold their tickets to the finals, and Indy residents, and therefore Butler fans, are the most likely purchasers. Those who aren’t attached to one of these teams will be far more inclined to be cheering for lovable Butler than the devils from Duke. They handled the pressure of the situation well last game, and this time around it should be a boost – one worth a point or two in the outcome of the game.
3. Precedence – This is the 58th time since 1997 that Butler has been an underdog in a non-conference game. They have covered 41 of those games – 72 percent. Nothing wrong with that.
4. Rebounding – Duke is the better rebounding team by far. They are also very good at turning those rebounds into second chance points. Against Michigan State, though, the Bulldogs did a very good job of asserting themselves on defensive rebounds, and of limiting the second chance attempts the Spartans got. If they can do that again then they’ll be able to challenge Duke and keep it close.
5. Back to earth – Duke beat up on West Virginia because the Mountaineers did nothing well. Most glaring, though, was a total lack of three point defense – Duke shot 52 percent from beyond the arc. Butler just isn’t going to let them do that, and that will have an impact on everything else the Blue Devils will want to do.
So, there you have it. For better or worse I’ll have Butler to cover, and probably to win outright as well. My fingers are crossed. Which way are you going?