April 05, 2010
Experts' Picks: Title Game
SI.com's nine experts predict how Monday night's national championship game will play out.
No. 1 Duke vs. No. 5 Butler
Seth Davis
The Bulldogs have had an incredible run, but in this one they have finally met their match. Unlike West Virginia, Butler excels at defending perimeter shooters, so Duke will have to beaten them from inside the three-point line. But the Blue Devils' guards are not just jump shooters; they love to drive the ball and create scoring opportunities inside and take lots of free throws, where they are ranked eighth in the country in percentage. Inside, Duke's size -- specifically 7-foot-1 senior center Brian Zoubek -- will be too much of an advantage, especially with Butler center Matt Howard (who is an undersized center at 6-8) questionable with a slight concussion. Some people are speculating Duke could win in a run away, but you don't run away from Butler. You use patience, execution, efficiency and toughness to slowly grind your way through the game. Duke is clicking on all cylinders now, and it says here they will grind, shoot and rebound their way to the national championship.

Luke Winn
Logic says to pick Duke: Vegas likes the Blue Devils by at least seven points, kenpom.com likes them by seven points, and Saturday's win over West Virginia proved that their offense is in high gear. But great offenses never seem to look great against the Bulldogs, who use near-perfect help defense to challenge every shot. I'll go with the fairy-tale ending.

Stewart Mandel
Butler has had a fantastic run, but it's been able to get away with shooting poorly and still winning by shutting down their opponent's top scorer. With the balance Duke has between Nolan Smith, Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler, someone's bound to get open. Meanwhile, Brian Zoubek is playing the best basketball of his career in this tournament and will be hard for Butler to handle on the glass. Duke has been the best team in this tournament and will cap it with a championship.

Andy Staples
Had Duke not enjoyed its offense-firing-on-all-cylinders game against West Virginia, I probably would have picked the Blue Devils. Butler will force Duke into bad shots, and the Devils' big men can't get every offensive rebound. Butler's Gordon Hayward, the breakout star of this tournament, can hit a big shot when the Bulldogs need one.

Joe Posnanski
The Butler story is so good and the Bulldogs do play dazzling defense. But unless Duke has a Kentucky-like three-point shooting nightmare -- which seems unlikely based on how well and how confidently the Blue Devils shot the ball Saturday -- that is a difference-maker. So is Duke's ability to get offensive rebounds. Butler will need all its magic to pull off this one.

Andy Glockner
The Blue Devils' combination of size, shooting and frontcourt depth will be too much for the Cinderella story to write one final joyous chapter. Barring a three-point barrage from the Bulldogs, it's hard to see how Butler will score enough to win, especially with a questionable Matt Howard.

Tim Layden
Butler is a terrific, resourceful team and a great story playing in its home town. However, after watching Duke close-up on Saturday night, the Blue Devils just have too many options. Butler has no answer for Brian Zoubek, especially if Matt Howard can't play. And if the Bulldogs sag on Duke's bigs, the perimeter guys will kill them. Cinderella story ends here.

Kelli Anderson
Why? After watching the Bulldogs beat three supposedly superior teams in succession, I've stopped betting against them.

Joe Lemire
The matchup between Butler's Gordon Hayward and Duke's Jon Scheyer should be competitive and entertaining -- but won't decide the title, as the two should mostly neutralize each other's games (with just a slight edge to Hayward). With the questionable status of Butler's mustachioed forward Matt Howard (slight concussion -- though, let's be honest, his playing time is regularly questionable with his propensity to get in foul trouble), the Bulldogs may have trouble contending with Duke's deep group of big bodies on the front line. If Howard doesn't play or plays but is tentative banging down low with wave after wave of Duke post players, Butler won't be able to contend with the Blue Devils' balanced attack.

George Dohrmann
Maybe I am overreacting to watching the Blue Devils shoot the lights out against West Virginia, but I don't know how Butler stops Duke's Big Three. If Brian Zoubek was such a force against West Virginia, I imagine only foul trouble will prevent him from doing the same in the title game.


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