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Columnist
Here's how Butler can beat Duke
By Lindsey Willhite | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 4/5/2010 12:07 PM

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I cannot, in good conscience, declare Butler will shock Duke on Monday night.

Not when Duke has better players at more positions.

Not when Butler center Matt Howard, the biggest and best player in the Bulldogs' smallish frontcourt, finds himself a game-time decision following Saturday's head injury.

"His health is Numero Uno," said Butler coach Brad Stevens on Sunday. "If he can't play, he can't play."

Not when USA Today's Jeff Sagarin ran three billion computer simulations and Duke came out victorious in 2,028,656,607 of them.

What I can do, though, is provide the road map the Bulldogs will use for their drive to join the club populated by the 1988 Kansas Jayhawks, 1985 Villanova Wildcats and 1983 North Carolina State Wolfpack.

Each of those teams was rated worse than a 5 seed, yet each found a way to knock off a prohibitively favored No. 1 seed and assume a place in our hearts and the history books.

Don't be scared to speed:

On the surface, this strategy seems counterintuitive for Butler.

The Bulldogs averaged just 62 possessions in their first five NCAA games. That's pokey. It's the fourth-lowest number among the Sweet Sixteen teams.

But Duke, surprisingly, is one of the few teams that have played more slowly than the Bulldogs. The Blue Devils are averaging 60.2 possessions.

Here's why Butler must get moving: Duke's length and aggressiveness in its half-court defense will make it tough for the Bulldogs to run their stuff, so the Bulldogs need to get into transition as often as possible.

Push the ball, Ronald Nored and Shelvin Mack - but do it prudently. The Bulldogs can't afford to play a single possession out of character.

"I honestly believe on any night, five guys can beat five guys," Nored said. "It's about going out there and competing, sticking to your system and doing what you do."

Crash into Jon Scheyer:

Duke's point guard, the Glenbrook North graduate, is Coach K's irreplaceable player.

He leads the team in multiple categories, including minutes per game (36.7), and he's far and away the Blue Devils' best ballhandler and facilitator.

Butler needs to get Scheyer into foul trouble - both by taking the ball to him and collecting a few charges - but that's much easier said than done.

Because he knows he needs to stay on the floor, Scheyer has fouled out just once in his 143-game college career, and that occurred during his freshman year against North Carolina.

Scheyer averages just 1.3 fouls per game this year, 1.6 for his career.

Drive the lane:

Duke's 7-foot-1 Brian Zoubek figures to foul out sooner or later, but the Bulldogs need to make it sooner by challenging him in the post.

Zoubek will kill Butler on the offensive boards given the chance - he grabs 1 rebound every 2.4 minutes he's on the floor - so the Bulldogs must get him out and take their chances with the skinnier Plumlee brothers.

Ride the crowd:

Almost all of the 70,000-plus fans in Lucas Oil Stadium will be begging to bear witness to history.

Duke winning an NCAA title ain't exactly a once-in-a-lifetime moment.

West Virginia didn't stay close enough long enough Saturday. The Bulldogs need to hang around and give the masses a chance to help guide them to victory.

Even if Butler carries out all of these ideas, there still needs to be a little magic involved.

Villanova, for example, made 22 of its 28 field-goal attempts when it edged Georgetown by 2 points on April 1, 1985.

Might this Stevens anecdote count as magic? After all, he was all of 8 years old way back when -

"The first game I vividly remember watching," Stevens said, "I was at my grandparents' (house) in Tucson, Ariz., was Villanova beat Georgetown."