Ballin' and bloggin' on the national and local college hardwood.
Duke-Butler is a reminder, not a rematch
Eight months later, the vision of Gordon Heyward's halfcourt shot at the buzzer bouncing off the rim at Lucas Oil Stadium to end Butler's hopes of a monumental upset of Duke for the NCAA title are vivid. But as much as the Bulldogs might like a do-over, their meeting with No. 1 Duke at 3:15 p.m. Saturday at the Izod Center won't provide it.
The nationally televised game is a reminder of one of the most memorable championship games in NCAA history, but it hardly can be called a rematch because so much has changed for both teams. Heyward is in the NBA, and (4-2) also lost senior Willie Veazley from that magical team. Point guard Ronald Nored, who recently suffered a concussion, will be a game-time decision.
That means center Matt Howard and shooting guard Shelvin Mack really are the only two returning starters for Butler. Duke (7-0), which lost seniors Jon Scheyer and Lance Thomas, might be even better than last season's champs thanks to the addition of freshman point guard Kyrie Irving (pictured), whose 31-point effort led the Blue Devils to an 84-79 victory over No. 6 Michigan State earlier this week at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
With a win, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski would match Kentucky legend Adolph Rupp for third on the all-time wins list with 875. If you're looking for a reprise of the Devils' thrilling 61-59 win over Butler last April, it's not likely to be that close. Duke has trailed for all of 3:00 in seven games this season, and no deficit has been more than two points. In the past four games of a 17-game winning streak dating back to last season, the Blue Devils have mowed down Marquette, Kansas State and Oregon all away from home before topping the Spartans.
Besides the addition of Irving, returning starters Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith are off to outstanding starts this season. Irving and Smith are averaging 16.9 points each, and Singler is averaging 16.0.
By comparison, Butler has struggled early in the season, losing at Louisville and falling at home to Evansville. But it got back on track with a road win over Loyola of Chicago in its Horizon League opener. Howard leads the Bulldogs with a 16.0 average, while Mack is averaging 15.8. Unlike well-established Duke, Butler has yet to realize any recruiting bonanza as a result of last season's inspiring performance.