Butler Bulldogs vs. Duke Blue Devils NCAA Championship Preview and Pick Preview and Pick – Point Spread

National Championship: Butler Bulldogs (33-4 SU, 17-20 ATS) vs. Duke Blue Devils (34-5 SU, 23-14-1 ATS), 9:21 p.m. EST, Monday, April 5, 2010, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind. TV: CBS
by Ryno of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Butler +7/Duke -7
Over/Under: 128

This is perhaps the most interesting National Championship in years. Duke, the popular powerhouse team with a legendary coach and a great history, faces Butler, a team that has never been here before but is playing its hometown of Indianapolis and has won 25 games in a row.

Butler is David, and Duke is the Goliath. But Butler won’t feel that way, and Butler hasn’t looked like an underdog the way it has played the past three games in its wins over Syracuse, Kansas State and Michigan State. Duke has been equally as impressive with its dominating wins over California, Purdue and West Virginia.

This will be an interesting battle between two elite defensive teams. Butler has not allowed 60 points in any game in the NCAA tournament (or in the entire postseason for that matter). Duke has allowed more than 57 points once in the NCAA tournament (Baylor scored 71). Duke has scored at least 70 points in each of its last three games. Butler has not scored more than 63 points in any of its last four games.

Butler is coming off a 52-50 win over Michigan State in the Final Four on Saturday. Up by three in the final seconds, Butler smartly fouled Korie Lucious so that the Spartans couldn’t attempt a 3-pointer. After making the first free throw, Lucious missed the second one on purpose but Gordon Hayward came away with the rebound for Butler to seal the victory. Hayward finished with 19 points and nine rebounds, while Shelvin Mack scored 14 points. The Bulldogs only shot 31 percent from the field and 5-for-21 on 3-pointers. But they only committed eight turnovers and were able to force 16 turnovers. The Spartans shot 43 percent from the field and 4-for-11 on 3-pointers. Butler hasn’t allowed an opponent to shoot 44 percent in any of its last 13 games.

Duke dominated in its win over West Virginia in the Final Four on Saturday, 78-57. The Blue Devils put on a shooting clinic, shooting 53 percent from the field and 13-for-25 on 3-pointers. Jon Scheyer scored 23 points and dished out six assists with no turnovers, Kyle Singler had 21 points, nine rebounds and five assists after shooting 0-for-10 from the field the game before that, and Nolan Smith had 19 points, six assists and no turnovers. Brian Zoubek scored six points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Duke committed only five turnovers in the game. West Virginia had 10 turnovers and shot 41 percent from the field and 5-for-12 on 3-pointers. The Blue Devils won by 21 points and they only shot 13-for-25 from the free throw line. If they defend like they have been all season and shoot and execute like they did against West Virginia, Butler won’t stand a chance Monday night.

Butler’s defense has been dominating strong offensive teams like Syracuse and Kansas State in the NCAA tournament. There’s no reason the Bulldogs can’t shut down Duke as well. And the Bulldogs actually match up fairly well. Ronald Nored can lock down Scheyer like he did to KSU’s Jacob Pullen and Syracuse’s Andy Rautins. Mack matches up well with Smith, as does Hayward with Singler. The advantage for Duke will be down low where the Blue Devils will have a size and strength advantage. Matt Howard, who has a problem staying out of foul trouble, is the only quality true post player for the Bulldogs. He will have trouble guarding Zoubek. Lance Thomas won’t dominate, so he won’t be a problem, but Mason and Miles Plumlee are capable of coming off the bench and making a huge impact if the Butler reserve big men don’t step up defensively.

Both Butler and Duke are forcing 14 turnovers per game this season, but Butler is committing one more turnover per game than the Blue Devils. Butler is outrebounding opponents by three boards per game, while Duke averages about six rebounds more than its opponents. Duke is shooting 39 percent on 3-pointers and holding opponents to 28 percent, while Butler is shooting 34 percent on 3-pointers and holding opponents to 32 percent. Both teams are shooting a tad over 44 percent from the field, but Duke is defending slightly better, holding opponents to 40 percent shooting from the field.

Butler is 5-1 ATS in its last six games overall, 4-1 ATS in its last five ACC games, 20-6 ATS in its last 26 games as an underdog, and 4-10 ATS in its last 14 games following an ATS win. Duke is 5-0 ATS in its last five games overall and 7-3-1 ATS in its last 11 games following a SU win of more than 20 points.

Ryno’s Pick: I’m not comfortable with taking either side in this matchup, HOWEVER, I am in love with the UNDER 128 as both offenses can be VERY deliberate and both defenses are excellent. I expect this game to land around the 115-120 point mark with points to spare! Take the UNDER 128!