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Dogfight: Bulldogs, Huskies Play For Title Monday Night

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Well the finals are set, with Butler advancing to play UConn on Monday night.

Both teams are on a roll: UConn won a remarkable five games in the Big East tournament and five more so far in the NCAA; Butler has won 14 straight.

In the NCAA, Butler has beaten ODU, Pitt, Wisconsin, Florida and now VCU.  UConn?

To go back to the Big East, their first two opponents were hapless DePaul and a collapsing Georgetown, so take those for what they are worth (they beat DePaul by 26 and Georgetown by 17). They then beat Pitt by two, Syracuse by five in OT, and Louisville by three.

In the NCAA, they thrashed Bucknell by 29, took Cincinnati by 11, San Diego State by seven, Arizona by two and Kentucky by one.

And here's another stat to keep an eye on:  tossing out Bucknell as irrelevant, other than the Arizona game, only two players have scored in double figures for UConn: Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb (Shabazz Napier scored 10 against the Wildcats).

Here's another thing to keep in mind:  UConn goes with a primary rotation of seven players.  Of those, Kemba Walker is a junior and the last guy in the rotation, Charles Okwandu, is a senior.  Alex Oriakhi (29.2 mpg) and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel (17.0 mpg) are  sophomores, while Jeremy Lamb (27.5 mpg), Roscoe Smith (25.4 mpg), Shabazz Napier (23.6 mpg) are freshmen.

Nine Huskies are underclassmen; the bottom three in minutes played are two seniors and a junior.

Again tossing out Bucknell as irrelevant, UConn so far is averaging 66 ppg in the tournament.

For what it's worth, Butler is averaging a shade more at 67.2 ppg.

Field goal percentage in the tourney is basically the same:  41.76 for Butler vs. 43.75 for UConn.

And three point shooting?  UConn is averaging 15 three attempts per game and has hit 20 (again regarding Bucknell as irrelevant).

Butler has hit 8.2 per game and limited opponents to 5.8 per game.

Of course, these are limited samples and it leaves a lot out.  So can anything be gained here?

The answer is: not necessarily and it depends.

UConn comes to this game with limited scoring options and a ton of inexperienced players.

Butler of course has been here before.

Butler's style and UConn's lack of offensive diversity and youth, in our opinion, pretty much guarantee that this will be a low scoring game.  Butler's job may be made somewhat easier because their defensive focus will be on two primary players - Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb.

When we interviewed Steve Wojciechowski last spring for Blue Devil Tip Off, we asked him about Butler, and he said they were the most physical team Duke played all last season.

Consider that for a moment: in the ACC, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Florida State and Maryland are exceedingly physical teams (you can now add Clemson, under Brad Brownell, to that list too).  Yet Butler was more so.

He also praised their three point shooting and overall ball handling as well.

Walker has had a sensational year, but we'll be interested to see how he deals with Butler's defenders, not least of all Ronald Nored, who is a disruptive defensive force.

Now consider one more thing.  Jeremy Lamb has had a very solid freshman season.  But he is 6-5 and 185 and he'll be up against a defense which limited VCU's three-guard offense to 6-23, Florida's to 6-19, Wisconsin's 8-24, and ODU's three-guard offense to 4-18.

Indeed, only Pitt did reasonably well, hitting 7-16.

Walker has been very hard for everyone to stop, but given what we've learned about Butler's defense over the last year, we're guessing they're going to try to beat the crap out of Lamb.  If they can strangle his offense and keep Walker under reasonable control, UConn will have to count on a lot of very young players playing on the biggest stage possible.

It's not impossible, but it's not going to be easy, either.  Butler should be favored.

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