Jeff Eisenberg

Duke will play a familiar role in Monday's national title game

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Monday's national title matchup could not have worked out more perfectly if CBS had scripted it.

Occupying one bench will be college basketball's ultimate fairy-tale underdog. Occupying the other will be the sport's greatest villain.

Top-seeded Duke moved another step closer to reclaiming its former place atop college basketball, overpowering West Virginia 78-57 in Saturday's second national semifinal. The Blue Devils avenged a second-round loss to the Mountaineers two years ago, setting up what promises to be a compelling title game against hometown favorite Butler.

"t's definitely going to be a big story, I'm sure," Duke guard Nolan Smith said. "People calling Butler the Cinderella and, of course, Duke the big-time program. But it's going to be a fight. Both teams are very good. I just can't wait to play."

If the shortcomings of previous Duke teams were annually exposed in early-round NCAA tournament flame-outs, this Blue Devils team has shined on college basketball's biggest stage. Many considered them the most vulnerable No. 1 seed, but they have displayed the perimeter quickness and interior toughness its predecessors lacked, advancing past the Sweet 16 for the first time in six years and moving within a victory of its first national title since 2001.

Whereas West Virginia's trapping 1-3-1 zone confounded Kentucky's high-octane offense into 4-for-32 3-point shooting in last Sunday's East Regional final, the Mountaineers were no match for Duke's big three. Kyle Singler, Smith and Jon Scheyer scored 63 of Duke's 78 points, aided by nine rebounds from big man Brian Zoubek.

"Our team played really well tonight," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Thought our defense was outstanding. Our care for the ball was excellent, to get 20 assists and only six turnovers. These two guys (Scheyer and Smith) had 12 assists and no turnovers. All three of our perimeter guys had outstanding shooting games."

It was a dominant performance worthy of a team that will assume the Goliath role to Butler's David on Monday night.

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