Previewing Butler

Previewing the Bulldogs and Blue Devils who will tip off on Saturday in New Jersey. The game will be broadcast live by ESPN beginning at 3:30 PM EST.

It was one of the best, if not the best National Title games in history. Now, just eight months removed from Duke's dramatic victory over the Butler Bulldogs, the two programs will meet in East Rutherford, N.J.

PREVIEW
Butler (4-2) vs. Duke (7-0)
East Rutherford, N.J. -- IZOD Center
TV: ESPN 3:30 PM EST (Dan Shulman & Jay Bilas)


MEET THE BULLDOGS

Head Coach: Brad Stevens (4th Year)
Record at Butler: 93-17
Record v. Duke: 0-1

Projected Starters:
?54 Matt Howard (6-8, 230 Sr.) – 16.0 ppg, 9.7 rpg
44 Andrew Smith (6-11, 240, So.) – 6.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg
2 Shawn Vanzant (6-0, 170, Sr.) – 7.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg
3 Zach Hahn (6-1, 175, Sr.) – 8.2 ppg, 1.3 rpg
1 Shelvin Mack (6-3, 215, Jr.) – 15.8 ppg, 5.3 apg

Top Reserves:
23 Khyle Marshall (6-7, 210, Fr.) – 5.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg
33 Chase Stigall (6-4, 195, So.) – 3.8 ppg, 1.2 rpg
32 Garrett Butcher (6-7, 210, Jr.) - 3.5, 2.7 rpg
5 Ronald Nored (6-0, 175, Jr.) - 3.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg
11 Alex Anglin (6-5, 180, Jr.) - 2.4 ppg, 1.8 rpg


Series History: This will be the third meeting between the two programs all time. Duke has won each of the two previous meetings. The first coming during the 2002-2003 season in an 80-60 decision. The second, of course, was the 2010 NCAA Championship game where the Blue Devils overcame a tremendous effort by the Bulldogs to win their fourth NCAA Title under Mike Kryzewski by a score of 61-59.

Against teams from the Horizon League the Blue Devils own a 9-1 all-time mark. The only loss coming to Loyola (Ill.) during the 1963 season.

Butler Roster: Click Here
Butler Statistics: Click Here
Butler Schedule: Click Here


PRE-GAME NOTES:

Quote To Note: "Obviously, the challenge will be great, as we have a tremendous amount of respect for Duke." - Brad Stevens.

Season To Date: After Gordon Hayward's shot bounced off the rim, the two programs have taken somewhat different paths. The Blue Devils, according to many analysts, have become a deeper and more talented team. Not so for the Bulldogs who lost Hayward and Willie Veasley from last year's starting lineup and have dropped two of their first six games while experimenting with four different starting lineups in those contests.

In their last contest, the Bulldogs survived against Horizon League foe Loyola (Ill.) Zach Hahn knocked down a pair of free throws to give Butler a three point lead with seven seconds remaining and the Bulldogs survived a final possession by host Loyola to post a 65- 63 victory in the Horizon League opener for both teams. The previously unbeaten Ramblers rallied from an 11-point deficit in the second half and closed to with one, 63-62, on a pair of free throws by Jordan Hicks with 0:15 left.

Injury Bug Bites: Butler played without starting point-guard Ronald Nored in the games against Evansville and Loyola. Nored, a starter in 69 of 74 career games, suffered a head injury in a collision early in Butler's victory at Siena, and he's been sidelined since. The 6-0 junior continues to be evaluated by Butler's medical staff, and his status is day-to-day. Nored was the Horizon League Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2009-10.

In April he started and played 27 minutes against the Blue Devils, hitting 3-of-8 from the field for seven points. Nored also grabbed six rebounds.

Stevens said he won't bring Nored back until he's clearly 100 percent and that may mean his floor leader sits out Saturday's rematch of last year's national championship contest in New Jersey.

"Obviously, he's a really, really important part of our team," Stevens said. "But his health is more important, and we want to make sure he's right."

Must Defend The Perimeter: Butler has won 24 straight contests in which the Bulldogs knock down at least nine three-pointers. The streak was extended in the victory against Loyola. Zach Hahn led the way by hitting three of four long-range shots, including two of two in the final 20 minutes. Senior forward Matt Howard connected on both three-pointers that he attempted and sophomore Chase Stigall came off the bench and hit two of four distance shots. Senior Shawn Vanzant and junior Shelvin Mack each had one 3-pointer in the win.

Teammates and Opponents: Butler's Shelvin Mack spent nearly as much time with Duke's tandem of Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler as he did with his own teammates last summer. All three were members of the 2010 USA Basketball Men's Select Team, which was chosen to train against the U.S. National Team. The three also gathered at several summer camps, including the LeBron James Camp.

Much like his Duke counterparts, Mack has also been recognized as one of the nation's top players in being named to several different All-American teams. All told, Mack was chosen first team All-America, along with Kyle Singler of Duke, Harrison Barnes of North Carolina, Jared Sullinger of Ohio State and Jacob Pullen of Kansas State, by Fox Sports.com, and he was named honorable mention All-America by the Associated Press. The 6-3 Butler guard also was ranked fourth among top 2010-11 point guards and combo guards by Gary Parrish of CBS Sports.com. He was named to the John Wooden Award 2010-11 Preseason Top 50 list, and he's on the 2010-11 Naismith preseason watch list. Mack was chosen as the Horizon League Preseason Player of the Year and named first team preseason All-League.

The Blindside Best known to Duke fans as the guy who set a borderline illegal screen (link) on Kyle Singler as Hayward's shot was launched, Butler's Matt Howard has emerged as one of his team's primary weapons early in his senior season. Currently the 6'8, 230 pounder sits 12th on the school's career points list with 1,426. In April, Howard was limited with early foul trouble and played just 19 minutes. So far in 2010-2011 he's scored in double figures in five of six games including a 22 point, 9 rebound performance against Louisville on November 16th. Following the game against Rick Pitino's club, Howard reeled off three straight double-doubles going for 16/10, 17/12, and 19/13 against Ball State, Sienna, and Evansville.

Duke Noteables: The Blue Devils will be looking to move to 8-0 on the season against Butler, but there are some additional notes worth following:

  • Mike Krzyzewski is one win shy of matching Adolph Rupp for third place on the all-time coaching wins list. Coach K enters Saturday's game with 875 career wins.
  • The Blue Devils have won 17 consecutive games dating back to a 79-72 loss at Maryland on March 3, 2010. Duke has won 25 of its last 26 games overall.
  • Duke has won 34 consecutive games against teams outside the traditional power conferences (Big Ten, Big East, SEC, ACC, PAC 10, Big 12). Virginia Commonwealth's 79-77 win over Duke in the 2007 NCAA Tournament was the Blue Devils' last loss to a team from a non-power conference.
  • Duke has trailed a total of 3:00 this season. The Blue Devils have not trailed in the final 30 minutes of any game and have not trailed by more than two points this season.
  • Duke's starting backcourt of Nolan Smith and Kyrie Irving combines to average 33.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 11.2 assists per game. The tandem is also shooting 53.0 percent (79-of-149) from the floor. Smith and Irving have both reached double-figures in scoring in all seven games this season.
  • The Blue Devils are averaging 49.0 points per game in the second half of play this season. Duke is shooting 55.5 percent (111-of-200) from the field, including 56.5 percent (39-of-69) from three-point range, over the final 20 minutes of action.
  • Senior Kyle Singler is averaging 18.3 points per game while shooting 48.6 percent (18-of-37) from the field and 47.1 percent (8-of-17) from three-point range in neutral site games this season.


WHAT TO WATCH FOR

After the trophy presentation a year ago many believed it would be Duke losing as many as five starters to the NBA - forcing the Blue Devils to completely re-tool. Instead, it was Hayward leaving early while Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith elected to remain in Durham. Add in the additions of Kyrie Irving and Seth Curry along with the emergence of Andre Dawkins and Duke is far more prepared to run and gun against a smaller, scrappy bunch of Bulldogs. Additionally, the potential absence of Butler's starting point guard, Nored, doesn't help Coach Stevens' cause of trying to upset what appears to be a better version of the defending National Champs. As season ago Kyle Singler proved to be a match up nightmare for Butler, scoring 19 points and grabbing nine rebounds while holding Hayward in check. Fast forward eight months and Butler still doesn't possess a player - on paper - capable of limiting the Duke star. Look for Singler to get going early which which will open lanes for Irving and Nolan Smith. The Bulldogs physical style under the basket will be a good test for Mason Plumlee, but may to be a more valuable experience for Miles Plumlee and Ryan Kelly - both of whom have struggled to hit the boards in recent games. In the end Butler will, again, try to control the tempo and force Duke to earn each and every basket with physical defense on and off the ball. However, this year's group of Blue Devils have far too much fire power and should claim an eighth victory on the season.

Prediction:
Duke - 84
Butler - 68


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