Butler, Duke To Meet For NCAA Basketball Title
David and Goliath — well, make that Butler and Duke — will play for the national championship in men's college basketball.
But David has a home court advantage.
The surprising Butler Bulldogs sneaked past Michigan State, 52-50 Saturday, then watched perennial power Duke pummel West Virginia in the nightcap of the national semi-finals, 78-57.
The two will meet Monday night in Indianapolis, where this year's Final Four is playing out. The tournament has featured many upsets already, as evidenced by the presence of two No. 5 seeds — Butler and Michigan State — in the first semi-final pairing.
Bulldogs Still Growling
Butler's run to the title game is making many fans think of the film Hoosiers, which was itself based on the state basketball title won by tiny Milan High School in the 1950s.
Butler star Gordon Hayward scored 19 points and collected the final rebound — his ninth of the game — as the Bulldogs posted their biggest victory yet in a 25-game winning streak. They've already knocked off one No. 1 seed (Syracuse) and one No. 2 seed (Kansas State) to get this far.
Butler, playing just 5.6 miles from its campus, forced Michigan State into a sloppy game.
The Bulldogs prevailed despite missing 10 shots in a row late in the second half and losing the services of one of their best players, Shelvin Mack, for most of the period to back spasms.
"We've been talking about the next game all year," Hayward said in a post-game interview. "It's just great that the next game will be for the national championship."
Butler won after shooting just 30.6 percent from the field, which 33-year-old third-year head coach Brad Stevens conceded probably shouldn't happen.
In fact, the Bulldogs made just one basket in the final 12:18 of the game — but they made free throws and played stingy defense to keep Michigan State at bay.
Devil Of A Time For West Virginia
Duke, which has already won three national championships in coach Mike Krzyzewski's 30 seasons, got strong performances from each of its so-called "big three" — Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith — to end West Virginia's title hopes.
The Mountaineers were a feel-good story, too, arriving at their first Final Four in 51 years, and had dismantled No. 1 seed Kentucky to reach Indianapolis.
But Duke put together one its best efforts of the season as Scheyer put up 23 points, Singler had 21 and Smith added 19. And 7-foot-1 center Brian Zoubek led a rebounding assault that led to many second-chance baskets for the Blue Devils.
In the Final Four for the first time since 2004 (but the 11th time overall under Coach K), Duke opened a double-digit lead in the first half, hitting consistently from beyond the 3-point arc. Scheyer and Smith finished 9 of 18 from three-point range for the night.
West Virginia's best hope at a rally ended with 8:59 left when its talented guard, Da'Sean Butler, hurt his left knee while driving to the basket. In an emotional scene, Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins cradled his senior star in his arms before Butler was carried off the court by teammates.
Butler finished with 10 points for the Mountaineers, who were led by Wellington Smith with 12.
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