Duke vs Butler: Grading the Lineups

    
April 4th, 2010
You might say that grading individual matchups is a waste of time.. that it's all about the "team".. and I say, you're half right. But its still fun to compare individual talent.. and ultimately, when there's a few seconds left on the clock, it takes one guy to win the game.

 

Note: Player grades take into account health status heading into Monday night.

 

  #1 Duke   #5 Butler  
A Jon Scheyer vs Shelvin Mack A-
  Scheyer's hit 10 threes in the last 2 games and Butler's ability to defend the long-ball will be the key to their chances. He's an underrated defender & passer.   For all the talk about Gordon Hayward, Mack has consistently been the best Bulldog. Butler wont be able to escape without a 100% Mack like they did against MSU.  
         
A- Nolan Smith vs Ronald Nored B+
  Smith took his game to another level this season, and is a huge reason why Duke is back in the title game. WVU did a bad job defending him, but shots won't come quite as easy against Butler.   Nored certainly won't take over a game on the offensive end, but he can pass, rebound, and defend and is a perfect fit for what Butler tries to do.  
         
C+ Lance Thomas vs Willie Veasley B-
  Thomas is Duke's most Butler-like player.. he doesn't add much on offense but is in the lineup for rebounds, defense, and energy.   Only 6-3, Veasley will need to step up on the boards and it wouldn't hurt if he can pick up 4 steals like against West Virginia. Solid senior contributor.  
         
A- Kyle Singler vs Gordon Hayward A
  Outside of the dreadful Baylor game, Singler has really stepped up in recent weeks. He can hit shots when you least expect it, and is an underrated passer.   With Howard & Mack potentially not 100%, Hayward will need to be even better then he's already been. 10 turnovers to 0 assists in his last 3 games doesn't tell the story of how he's been playing.  
         
B- Brian Zoubeck vs Matt Howard C+
  It took a couple seasons, but Zoubeck has finally emerged as an extremely important cog in Duke's attack. His presence on the O glass was key against WVU, and will be again on Monday.   Even before the injury, Howard wasn't having the best game.. and in general, his whole season has been a bit of a disappointment. He's not even 100% playing, but its hard to imagine he wont find away into the lineup.  
         
B- Duke Bench vs Butler Bench C
  The Duke troika features Miles & Mason Plumlee and Andre Dawkins. Dawkins can really shoot if he's forced into minutes, and the Plumlee's are a pair of forwards whose physicality could come in handy against Butler.   Butler features a 4-man bench, Hahn, Jukes, Smith, and Vanzant. Against MSU, the group totaled 4 points, so don't expect too much here. It would be helpful for Butler if Hahn, who can shoot the 3, wakes up from a 3 game nap. Smith will be forced to play a bigger role due to Howard's injury & Duke's size.  
A Coach K vs Brad Stevens A
  Duke returns to the title game for the first time since 2001, and the coaching staff finally put to bed all the talk about how they couldn't win big games. Stevens is the golden boy, but Coach K is still Coach K.   You couldn't draw up a better start to a coaching career. Stevens is in the title game in just his 3rd season at the age of 33. Butler's defense has been the story of the tournament, and he'll find a way to cause problems for the Blue Devils.  

 

Final: Duke 4-1-1

It's nothing new for Butler to be on the short-end of such comparisons, yet they tend to find a way to shut down an opponent. Mack's cramps worry me. He's the most underrated player in the game, and the real cog that makes Butler go. No matter how good Butler's defense is, Mack & Hayward are going to have to hit a fair amount of jumpers in order for the Bulldogs to pull out the win.