Monday, April 5, 2010

This is it...

Final game of the year, and I couldn't be more pumped. I just finished watching the Butler-MSU game so I'll try to compile my thoughts and give my take on the championship game.

First off the most interesting thing to me was how unimpressed I was with both teams. Frankly I didn't think it was a particularly well played game and I don't think that either of those teams could have beat the best 4-5 teams in the country if they brought that level. I was much more impressed with Butler against Syracuse and MSU against Tennessee because both teams offense looked much much better in those games. That is likely due to the fact that both teams play good enough defense that they dragged the game to a crawl. But even if we assume that is the case I still am shocked that Butler was able to win the game with almost no offense besides the free throw line for almost 10 minutes of the second half. They make little to no effort to rebound on offense, despite being a very good defensive rebounding team. Butler really put all of their eggs into one basket: defense. They prevent nearly all transition points, they challenge every shot, and they help very well on drivers.

Frankly they look a lot (and I mean a whole lot) like the Purdue team we faced two rounds ago. They have a couple of skilled scorers but really don't shoot the basketball well. They play tenacious defense in your face on the perimeter and really stifle guards. They try to force turnovers and turn them into transition buckets. And they don't have a lot of size but attempt to fend off post play by fronting and preventing passes into the post. In fact the simulations of the game give really similar results to purdue with the difference being that Hayward is a better player than anyone on the boilermakers, and Butler does a much better job of not turning the ball over.

So I think it's going to be another ugly, slow, struggle of a game. Fans of high flying transition basketball are probably going to be turned off. But if you like the drama of games within 10 pts you'll probably be happy. Even if Duke is outplaying the bulldogs I doubt they'll get out to more than a 10 pt lead. Unless we shoot the ball like we have over the last 3 halves of basketball. If duke is rebounding and shooting like that this game could get out of hand. Simply put Butler can't win a game in the 70s, and they are going to have trouble winning a game in the 60s.

The key matchup everyone is looking for is obviously hayward vs singler. Hayward is a really impressive player and remarkably similar to single both in body type and skills. Hayward is probably a little stronger and has a little more vertical game when attacking the basket, but Singler definitely is a better shooter and has an edge in D and rebounding. I expect both players to play well, but Butler needs Hayward to really have a big game since he'll likely control 40% or more of the teams offensive possessions. If he's shutdown their in trouble, whereas Duke still has a chance if singler has an off night.

I think the other interesting matchup will be Jukes and Howard against Zoubek, Thomas and the Plumlees. Frankly this is a really big mismatch in Duke's favor. Duke's big guys have a significant advantage in size, athleticism, and fouls to give. They should be able to get a lot of O-rebounds and either kick it out for 3s or get relatively easy putbacks. Howard needs to try and stay out of foul trouble so that the can create some offense, but honestly I think Butler might be better when they go small. At least with a small lineup they can go for steals, transitions baskets, and try to get the Duke bigs in foul trouble while attacking the rim. If they try to match size with us Howard and Jukes are going to have to play at a level that we've yet to see from them in the tournament. I don't think Butler's coach Brad Stevens is expecting that, so I would guess he'll go small often.

I do think that we won't see the devils have the same kind of game from behind the arc. Butler does too good of a job of contesting 3 pointers and our guys typically try not to take contested 25 footers. I think the game is going to be slow (think less than 60 possessions) and you'll see both teams working deep into the shot clock. Duke can have a good offensive game by working high post screens, getting offensive rebounds, and taking advantage of their size when attacking the rim. If Duke scores more than 1.15 pts per possession they'll very likely win the game. It's a very interesting matchup because Duke has (and has had all year) the most efficient offense in the country. And Butler has one of the most efficient Ds and has been outstanding all tourney.

On Butler's offensive end they must avoid turnovers. Each possession is important to them because they are typically one shot and out. They need to find their stroke from behind the arc (extremely difficult against the best 3 point defense in the country) and they need Veasley, Nored, and Hayward to attack the glass and get the Duke bigs moving their feet. They also need to attempt more FTs than Duke because that is one of the ways that they can overcome a poor shooting night.

It should be a good game. I expect a slow, low-scoring defensive struggle. If Duke plays up to its capability it could turn ugly, if Butler plays to its capability Duke could be struggling to score and trailing most of the second half. My prediction is a close game most of the way, but Duke's offense and rebounding will prove too much late. I see the devils winning something like 70-62. But if Butler keeps us under 65 pts it's anyone's game and I'm sure I'll be pacing the apartment at the end of the game.

go devils and lets bring one home to cameron.

1 comment:

JC said...

Holy Crap. Dude, you should work for ESPN.