Tuesday April 6th, 2010

Follow along all game as Andy Glockner provides blow-by-blow analysis of Duke vs. Butler.

FINAL: DUKE 61, BUTLER 59. Duke plays very smart to have Zoubek miss that second free throw, and Hayward gets as good a shot as possible (given the circumstances), with a half-court runner that went glass and rim and kicked out. Couldn't have been a more dramatic end (unless it had gone in) for one of the best title games in memory. Kudos to both teams. Butler ... my hat's off. Tremendous.

0:03.6, Duke 61, Butler 59: Hayward gets off a tough-but-makeable baseline fadeaway. Good offense, better defense. Shot was dead online but long ... does Butler have one final escape act with 3.6 sec left?

0:38, Duke 60, Butler 59: Butler gets the stop ... and the scrappy team rebound. Here we go ... for the title?

0:49, Duke 60, Butler 59: What an utterly huge miss from Nolan Smith, short-arming the one-foot finger roll. It leads to a rare run-out for Butler and eventually an easy layup for Howard after he rebounded a missed three that could have tied it. Butler is now one stop (and an increasingly rare defensive rebound) away from having last possession to win the NCAA title. Sick.

2:57, Duke 60, Butler 55: Duke is actually rebounding at a higher rate on the offensive glass now than Butler, and that's not a trend that's likely to reverse again with the way the Bulldogs seem to be getting ground down.

3:16, Duke 60, Butler 55: All the indicators have shifted fairly strongly to Duke, as the Blue Devils' size seems to finally be wearing down the Bulldogs. Butler's right in it, but the Dawgs are going to have to make some shots that they've missed for 77 minutes this weekend to steal this down the stretch.

5:55, Duke 56, Butler 51: Duke has really reversed the rebounding issue, and Butler is having trouble finishing over Duke's size inside. The offensive-rebounding rates are almost even now after a lopsided Butler advantage at the half, and the blocked shots/missed chippies are starting to add up for the Bulldogs. Almost a four-minute field-goal drought for Butler.

6:19, Duke 56, Butler 51: Butler decided to stick Nored on Scheyer to try to take him out of the game. Scheyer's had to work very hard, but with 15 points (including a couple of really timely buckets), five assists, four rebounds and just two TOs, he's been up to the task.

8:31, Duke 51, Butler 49: Fascinating stuff now, as Butler is reprising its second-half approach against MSU and attacking the rim relentlessly. Duke's superior size, though, is making finishing difficult. Great ballgame; hope the ending lives up to this.

11:35, Duke 47, Butler 43: Now Zoubek gets his fourth foul, and one of the Plumlees is going to have to do more than either did in the first half. A smaller type of game should favor Butler, you'd think.

12:30, Duke 45, Butler 43: Crazily, Butler had 38 field goal attempts in the first half, and has just seven in the first 7:30 of the second half. Part of the reason is Butler has made a better percentage, but part is that Duke is hitting the glass better and has forced some TOs.

13:02, Duke 45, Butler 43: With Matt Howard picking up a needless fourth foul with 14 minutes left, we'll get a definitive answer on whether Butler's smallback attack is indeed the key to victory. Duke is starting to get to the offensive glass with more regularity, and foul trouble on both sides could begin to become a factor. Jukes now with three fouls, too. Big problem ...

15:14, Duke 40, Butler 40: Butler really has been able to spread Duke's defense out and use its speed advantage well. That's been a primary reason for all of the offensive rebounds, and now two straight uncontested layups from Nored and Mack exposing the Blue Devils' interior. The pregame preview wondered if a Howard-less attack could be the way to go; right now, it seems like it is.

Interestingly, Duke's "Big Three" have played pretty well, with Singler, Scheyer and Smith combining for 26 of Duke's 33 points on 10-for-19 shooting. If they don't get some help on the offensive end and if Duke can't be better in keeping Butler off the offensive glass, the upset could be on. Butler amazingly could be 20 minutes away from a national title in which it shoots about 33 percent in the Final Four.

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Really entertaining first half, with Butler truly exhibiting its class and tenaciousness. The Bulldogs have been outworking the Blue Devils and have gotten some huge contributions from lesser-known sources, particularly Avery Jukes, who has 10 points off the bench. The Howard-less, more perimeter-based attack we pondered before the game has yielded huge dividends.

With modest contributions from Howard and Hayward, and Nored well-rested after missing a chunk of the half, it will be interesting to see whether Butler can hit Duke with a spurt and create a bit of separation. The game still feels a little high scoring for the Bulldogs' liking, as is the tempo, although this Duke team has played very slow in the NCAAs, as well.

Should be a fantastic second half. Wish we could hear the halftime talks in both locker rooms. K can't be pleased with what he saw in the last 10 minutes of that half.

2:25, Duke 30, Butler 27: Butler with nine offensive rebounds and a 39 percent offensive-rebounding rate (while holding Duke to two and 16 percent) is the most shocking part of this first half.

5:08, Duke 26, Butler 20: I am very concerned for Butler at this point. The Bulldogs have won the rebounding battle and the turnover battle, have shown an ability to get open shots, have throttled Duke's offense to a decent extent ... and now they're down by six.

5:55, Duke 21, Butler 20: The craziest part of Butler's rebounding success is that the Bulldogs aren't sacrificing transition defense to hit the glass. Very smart balancing act and passionate pursuit of the loose balls at the moment.

Stat that may only interest me: Butler has beaten MSU and leads Duke 12 minutes into the title game while compiling a total of six assists so far in the Final Four.

7:54, Butler 20, Duke 18: It's rare to see a Duke team getting outworked, but right now, the Bulldogs are on the front foot and have the Blue Devils a bit thrown off. Butler has grabbed 35 percent of its offensive-rebound opportunities, which is way higher than expected for a team that doesn't rebound well at all (somewhat by design) on that end. It will be difficult to keep this up for 40 minutes, especially if Howard continues to find foul trouble, but this has been impressive after a rocky shooting start.

7:54, Butler 20, Duke 18: Butler is getting a surprising number of second-chance shots, although that could shrink now that Howard just picked up his second (cheap) foul.

Extra thought: I like that 10 of Butler's first 15 shots came from inside the arc. They were very three-point heavy in the first half against Michigan State, to modest effect. It's clear, for now, that the Bulldogs can find looks inside, and the more they take it to the rim, the more they should get to the line and/or find quality looks from the arc. I still ultimately think Butler will need to make double-digits from downtown to win.

11:05, Duke 16, Butler 14: Interesting that there has been three assists total in this game, as both teams lock down defensively. Butler hasn't made a lot of shots, but three have been from downtown, including one from reserve Zach Hahn, listed as a possible X-factor in our preview. Butler should be very encouraged by the looks it is getting offensively, as the Bulldogs' quickness so far is beating Duke's size. Game score is a bit high for Butler's liking, though. It's very doubtful the Dawgs can win a game in the high 60s or low 70s. And right at the stoppage, Nored picks up his second foul, which could be a very big blow to the Bulldogs' defense for the remainder of the half. Let's see how Brad Stevens plays this.

15:47, Duke 6, Butler 4: I'm surprised that Butler started with Ronald Nored on Jon Scheyer instead of Nolan Smith. Choking off Smith does more damage to the Duke offense. No coincidence that Duke has two easy deuces from Smith and a clean putback from Brian Zoubek. Butler's offense is generating good, clean looks early, but they haven't made the shots, which is a theme in the NCAAs. Is it a plus or minus that they got two quick fouls on Lance Thomas? Now they get a first taste of a Plumlee.

15 minutes before tipoff: Matt Howard will be starting for Butler. Now we have to see how effective he can be inside and whether the lingering head injuries will be an issue. Regardless of how well Howard plays, the bigger question may be how much offense Butler can find when he's off the floor. With Shelvin Mack back, a smallball attack could create offensive mismatches against the bigger Duke frontcourt, but could expose the Bulldogs badly on the defensive glass.

It doesn't get much more David vs. Goliath than this, at least in terms of program pedigree. Butler is a very worthy team but faces a multifaceted Duke team that poses major matchup concerns. Can the Bulldogs hang on the glass with the much larger Blue Devils? Will Matt Howard make an impact or will Butler have to go smallball to find points? Can the Butler D shackle one more brand-name power on its way to the unlikeliest of national titles?

All of these questions, and more, will be answered in the next couple of hours. If you want your question featured in this live blog, hit me on Twitter at @aglock or via e-mail at bubblewatch@gmail.com.

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