Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith comprise Duke's "big three" scorers, and while the Blue Devils have no dominant All-American who has carried them to the NCAA title game against Butler, that combination of talents has been as good as any in the country this season. They combined for 63 points in Duke's 78-57 semifinal win over West Virginia, shot 22 of 45 from the field and totaled 17 assists.
Those three Blue Devils should draw the lion's share of defensive attetnion from Butler in tonight's NCAA national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. "I've seen them play a bunch in the ACC tournament and games that are on television, and the thing that worries me the most is just the 'big three,' of course," said Bulldogs forward Willie Veasley, who is one of Butler's key perimeter defenders along with guard Ronald Nored. "If Kansas State had the best two-guard combination, they have, by far, the best three players -- two guards and one forward."
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said that, generally, one of his three scorers has an off game, as Singler did when he went 0 for 10 against Baylor in the South Regional final. But they hit on all cylinders against the Mountaineers, and the result was a blowout.
"Myself, Jon and Kyle have really been playing great basketball together," Smith said yesterday. "We're going to have to play even more together because Butler really digs on balls and gets steals off guys who are trying to play one-on-one. Our chemistry will really come into effect on how we work together and get open shots."
The Bulldogs have held all five of their tournament opponents to less than 60 points, and that has to be their goal again because they figure to have trouble scoring against Duke's tall front line unless they're hitting from three-point range. So, Butler has to force the Blue Devils' big three into a poor shooting game, which has happened a few times this season.
"They're a great defensive team," Scheyer said. "They have really active hands. It's hard to penetrate against them. I know Willie from high school. We played against each other. He's always been a great, great defender, great winner."
Butler already has taken down one No. 1 seed in this tournament, Syracuse, with a great defensive effort that limited the Orange to 59 points. Butler coach Brad Stevens called this his best defensive team because his best five players also are his best five defenders.
"Our opportunity to win has to be focused on what we're best at," Stevens said. "We have to soar with our strength."