You want intensity? I said do you want intensity! Well get up off the couch, sit straight up with both feet planted firmly on the floor, because Bob Huggins and Mike Krzyzewski have narrowed eyes, with taunt faces, having prepared their teams as only they can for the second Final Four game of the day involving a 1 and 2 seed.
Missed shots, no problem
Of the four finalists in downtown Indianapolis, West Virginia (31-6, 17-19 ATS) is the poorest shooting team at 43.1 percent. For the Mountaineers, this just means opportunity for their athletic leapers to spring into action, collect the orange and put it back in the basket. West Virginia averages 15.5 offensive rebounds a game and is 8-1 ATS in road affairs when they grab 40 to 44 rebounds a contest since Huggins returned to alma mater.
Butler University isn’t the only butler in town, as the Mountaineers have Da’Sean Butler, who at least in West Virginia circles has opponents saying “the butler did it”. This is what a Big East coach said about Butler the player.
“[Da’Sean Butler] is so versatile. Our guy did a good job on him. We tried to limit his touches. In their five-man motion [offense], they’ll run 25 seconds off the clock if they don’t get a quick one. They keep moving. Butler has won so many games and hit so many big shots. We kind of overplayed him and let someone else do it. When he has the ball, he can score from ‘3.’ He can penetrate, and he hits the boards hard.”
Long athletes like Devin Ebanks, Kevin Jones and Wellington Smith pound the glass and have understood their roles in the offense better as the season has unfolded. It’s little wonder why the ‘Teers have tore off 10-game (7-3 ATS) winning streak.
Dukies have depth
Quietly, a few whispers had been heard that possibly Coach K no longer had the Midas touch in bringing in top-rate recruits to Durham, particularly tall ones. This has led to a few early exits in the Big Dance the past few seasons. This season has been a renaissance for Duke (33-5, 22-14-1 ATS), with frontline players complimenting its best players and adding a physical aggressiveness not seen around the program lately.
Maybe it was the practices, or Mason and Miles Plumlee acting like the Hanson brothers from “Slap Shot”, but all of the sudden the Blue Devils were devilish on defense and demons on the offensive boards. Brian Zoubek finally became the player the Duke coaches had envisioned, being an ill-tempered rebounder and defender, with a real thirst for winning. Lance Thomas had played an undersized center in his career, but was allowed to move to four spot on the floor and his confidence and energy increased.
The Plumlee brothers gained confidence themselves and started moving out opposing players like bouncers at a Durham night spot. Kyle Singler got into the act and Duke was like the Pistons of 1989-90, the “Bad Boys” with polite smiles as opposed to snarls. This Duke team fooled everyone, even the oddsmakers, which is why they are 21-13 ATS after playing consecutive games as favorite this season.
Combat gear required
Duke is a 2.5-point favorite at Bookmaker.com, with total falling to 131. The Blue Devils do not shoot the rock a great deal better than West Virginia at 44 percent, but tracks down 14.6 offensive rebounds a contest and they are 20-8 ATS after two straight games with 15 or more offensive boards. Duke is 12-2 OVER in a neutral court setting where the total is 130 to 139.5.
The Mountaineers are the bettor’s best pal with 16-2 ATS record in a NCAA tournament conflicts and 11-4 UNDER after they have covered the spread this season.
Games involving 1 vs. 2 seeds have the higher seed 5-4 SU in the Final Four since field was taken to 64 teams. Two betting twists of note: two seeds off a double digit spread win are 1-7 ATS in this round, but a top seed that is unbeaten ATS to this point is 1-5 ATS in next outing.