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Monday, April 5, 2010


Duke has opened up as a seven-point favorite over Butler following their 78-57 dismantling of West Virginia. Early action has pushed the number to as high as eight in some books. It's a big number but don't get carried away and fall victim to 'last game syndrome. (college basketball lines)

When it comes to championships, every bettor faces ‘last game syndrome.’ The sinking realization that this will be the last major event of your favorite sport for months forces the gambler in you to consider risking muti-unit plays. After all, this is your last chance at getting action for months, right? Might as well go out with a bang and make the game more ‘exciting.’

You don’t have to be that guy. You’ve worked hard to build up units all season long, if you see an edge here take it but no reason to get carried away. For those of you still on the fence, here’s a breakdown of Duke-Butler:

1. The Slipper Don't Fit

Please end all discussion of Butler as the tourney’s Cinderella. The Bulldogs opened the season ranked #11 in the nation and finished #8 in the polls. Butler has won 25 straight games including victories over Syracuse, Michigan State, and Kansas State. Butler is the real deal. They shouldn’t be fitted for any glass slippers if they can pull it off because they’ve been wearing a big ole size 20 shoe all year.

2. Something's gotta give

Butler has played stifling defense all tourney long, holding all five opponents to under 60 points. They've held 12 of their last 13 opponents under 60. Duke has failed to surpass the 60-point barrier just once this season, a 57-46 victory over Virginia.

Can we expect Duke to continue it's torrid 3-point shooting (13-25 against WVU)? Even if Duke cools off, the Blue Devils are still averaging just under 80 points per game it's past two contests while Butler has barely managed to average 60 themselves. They shot an abominable 30.7 percent against Michigan State. This number must improve if they want to cover.

3. A little help, please?

Butler's Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack were the only two players to record a made field goal in the first half of the MSU game. Matt Howard (12.4ppg) is questionable with a concussion, and if he's a scratch it's difficult to imagine how Butler is going to manage the glass against 7-foot Duke center Brian Zoubek and the 6'10 Plumlee twins, Miles and Mason. Duke snares an offensive rebound on 40% of their first FGA per possession, this doesn't fare well for the undersized guard lineup of Butler..

Duke's big three (Nolan Smith, Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler) have combined to average 58 points this tournament. Smith has taken his game to the next level this tourney -- if Duke wins tonight expect him to be named MVP. Butler needs to counter by having someone other than Hayward or Mack step up because Duke's big three is going to get their points regardless. Their X-factor is senior Willie Veasley (10ppg) -- they need him to be aggressive and have a big night knocking down shots from the perimeter for Butler to keep pace with the Blue Devils.

4. Intangibles

Normally, you give the intangible nod to Duke based on coach K alone. But doing so here would be based on name brand recognition only -- Matt Stevens is a cold blooded expert when it comes to matching up with opponents. His on-the-ball pressure forced Michigan State to cough the ball up 16 times and he kept MSU's bigs in foul trouble the entire game. This will be a tougher feat with a more disciplined Duke squad, while their defense is softer than Izzo's Spartans, it's also less foul prone and won't leave Butler in the double bonus for the better part of either half.

Experience won't play a big factor as neither team has a player who has ever played in a Final Four. There's the argument that no #5 seed has ever won the national championship or that this is Butler's first Final Four ever but these won't be the determining factors in the game. In the end, it's all about matchups.

Butler will need to execute a near perfect game plan and shoot the lights out to win SU tonight. Their disadvantage on the boards and lack of scoring options is a potential recipe for disaster against a team like Duke. The only Butler play is taking the points in the first half, but never feeling comfortable taking a team you don't believe can win SU. Don't expect Duke to rain 3's against a much tougher defense, but expect their bigs to eventually wear down Butler's thin frontline and create enough second chance opportunities to take Butler to cover against the spread in the end in what should be a close game with Duke edging it out.

Don't be sad that College Basketball is ending for the year you still can get all your NBA picks and basketball odds until Baseball season heats up right here at Coopers Sports Picks.


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