So I know today is opening day for many cities across the country as the 6 month quest for a World Series begins in the Major Leagues. There will be plenty of time to talk about this half-year saga. On this day, lets talk hoops. Lets talk NCAA Finals.
In Indianapolis tonight, Butler has the opportunity in front of a home crowd, to become the first team out of a non power conference to win the title since the 1990 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels. Can Brad Stevens continue to provide the magic?
On the other side of spectrum, the ACC Champion Blue Devils are looking to bring Coach K his 4th NCAA title. Which would put him in company with the likes of Adolph Rupp and 6 away from the legendary John Wooden. And let’s be honest, the man deserves to be recognized amongst these legends. He has made 11 Final Fours. He also coaches in a time where dynasties and repeat champions are much fewer and far between than in the days of Rupp or Wooden.
I will be the first to admit that I had neither of these teams making it into the Final Four in my bracket. I had Butler being one of the 5/12 upsets in the first round and falling to UTEP. I had Duke falling to a Scottie Reynold’s led Villanova team in the Elite 8. Shows what I know.
Duke has flown under the radar all year. Part of this was due to the fact that the ACC was looked at as being down this year. And conferences like the Big East and Big 12 were thought to be so superior. Well you know what, none of the power conferences were that superior as shown by the parody we have witnessed in this version of March Madness. I felt West Virginia or Ohio State was more deserving of a one seed than the Dukies. Duke put this claim to rest by railing West Virginia (also Ohio State lost to Tennessee in the Sweet 16). This Duke team is different from the ones of the past 5 years. They not only shoot great, but they are tough inside. Between Zoubek, the Plumlee bros, and Kyle Singler, this team has rebounded outstanding throughout the tournament, especially on the offensive glass. For once, nobody should be questioning Duke’s toughness in the paint. These guys are hungry and play a very physical brand of basketball. Not to mention they still shoot outstanding and are led by a trio of great scorers in Scheyer, Singler, and Smith. All three of these guys score in different ways which makes them very tough to contain.
I have picked Butler to lose pretty much every round of this tournament. And they continue to prove me wrong by grinding out games. Hayward and Mack are both fantastic players that might have played themselves into being drafted in the future. Also the supporting cast on this Butler squad has done a great job. This team has won ugly and taken advantage of the opportunities given to them. They have not allowed an opponent in this tournament to score 60 plus points. Good luck holding the Blue Devils under 60. Duke is at 100 percent. If Duke shoots like they did the other night against West Virginia, they will run Butler all the way back to campus and the game will be a blowout. If Butler continues to play great defense and forces Duke into a tough shooting night, we will be looking at a game that will go down the wire. And if the game goes down to the wire..
I still got Duke. I have picked against both of these teams all tournament. Well now it is time to put some faith in the forever constipated looking one (Coach K), and go with the Dukies to bring home their first National Championship since 2001.
It has been a fantastic run for both teams and even better tournament. This tournament is evidence of why an expansion to 96 teams would be a dire shame. It has been a near perfect spectacle that has truly lived up to its name of “March Madness.”
So the pick is Duke here from Sportskraze (maybe I will get one right, but still would not mind seeing Butler pull off the upset).
Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.