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Jeff Eisenberg

A look at the national title game from A to Z

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A: is for academics, an area where both these teams excel. Amid the hand-wringing about the lack of focus on the student half of student-athlete, both Duke and Butler graduate about 90 percent of their players. (Jeff Eisenberg)

B: is for Blue II, the bulldog who serves as Butler's mascot. Blue will be on the court for pre-game introductions tonight, as usual. (Chris Chase)

C: is for concussion and cramps. Matt Howard has one and Shelvin Mack had them. Butler’s two starters will need to not only play, but perform well. Howard and his head will be a game-time decision for tonight’s. I don’t think Butler can win without him in the game. (Matt Norlander)

D: is for defense, the area in which Butler has thrived during this NCAA tournament. None of the Bulldogs' five NCAA tournament opponents have exceeded 60 points, the first time a team has accomplished that. (JE)

E: is for enrollment. Butler and Duke have a total of about 10,000 undergraduates combined. Last year's final between Michigan State and North Carolina featured schools with approximately 40,000 undergrads. No team with an enrollment under 10,000 (except for Duke) has played for the title since 1989 when Seton Hall made it to the championship game. (CC)

F: is for fouls. We’re going to see Brian Zoubek and, hopefully, Matt Howard supply them. It’s just one of those unpreventable things. Like a Guns ‘n’ Roses fan wearing leather in the summer. (MN)

G: is for Goliath, a label that wouldn't have fit Duke until recently. Many expected the Devils to be the first No. 1 seed eliminated entering the NCAA tournament, but Duke has peaked at the right time to make its first Final Four since 2004. (JE)

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H: is for Hinkle Fieldhouse, home of Butler and also to the final game in the movie "Hoosiers". Yes, the baskets are still 10 feet off the ground. (CC)

I: is for inculcation. That means to be disciplined by way of repeated action. Butler’s defense can and should inculcate the game’s tempo and Duke’s offense for the majority of the game. Only when Duke can break the pattern will it have its best chance to overpower the Bulldogs. (MN)

J: is for Jeopardy, which produced this classic Duke-themed clip in February. Take heart, Ashley from Dartmouth, plenty of viewers thought you got that question right. (JE)

K: is for Kellogg, Clark. If you've ever wanted to hear the announcing equivalent of paint drying, listen to the CBS analyst tonight. Actually, that's a bit unfair. Paint drying would probably still make at least one salient point throughout the game. (CC)

L: is for Lucas Oil. By far and away the best big-domed structure that’s ever housed a Final Four. It looks terrific on television and 99 percent of on-site accounts are positive. Let’s just play every Final Four there from now on, OK? Indiana is synonymous with hoops and the NCAA is headquartered in Indianapolis. A perfect fit. (MN)

M: is for Milan, the Indiana high school team whose 1954 season became the basis for the movie "Hoosiers." Because underdog Butler plays in the same field house that the movie where the movie was filmed, the comparisons have been inescapable. (JE)

N: is for Nolan, Kyle and Jon. Duke's three scorers (each average over 17 ppg, nobody else on the team averages more than six) make it difficult for opponents to contain the Blue Devils scoring. As the Dukies have shown during this tournament, they can survive an off-night by any of their big three, since two others are there to pick up the slack. (CC)

O: is for offensive rebounding. There is no more critical facet — not even 3-point shooting, which is birthed out of said rebounding — to Duke’s game and chances at winning than grabbing back the shots its missed. (MN)

P: is for predictable, something this national title matchup was not. Only .03 percent of the 4.8 million who entered brackets on ESPN.com had the correct final. (JE)

Q: is for qualifier. In the past 36 hours it's been rare to hear someone say "yeah, Duke is playing pretty well," without adding the qualifier, "but they had the easiest road." That's a copout. Kansas lost to Northern Iowa. Syracuse lost to Butler. Kentucky couldn't even make it out of the Elite Eight. Duke's path to the finals may not have been tough, but they're still standing, aren't they? (CC)

R: is for Ronald Nored. My favorite player. Storyline everybody missed: Can Nored play a defensive game that’s akin to what Ricky Moore did for UConn when the Huskies won their first title (it came against Duke!) in 1999? (MN)

S: is for Shelvin Mack, th

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e Lexington native snubbed by in-state schools Kentucky and Louisville. Mack didn't even know where Butler was located when he received his first recruiting letter, but sophomore guard's decision to go there looks better and better. (JE)

T: is for "the best ever", which is what Mike Krzyzewski will be if Duke wins tonight. No disrespect to John Wooden, but give me four titles in the modern day tournament over 10 championships in the days where only one school per conference got to play in the NCAA tourney. (CC)

U is for upset. Butler is a seven-point underdog. Though this team is plenty capable of winning, actually doing it, going six games in this tournament and winning it all, would be rightfully considered an upset. One of the best of all-time. (MN)

V: is for Vanzant, as in Butler junior Shawn Vanzant, the little-known reserve guard who made the biggest play of the Bulldogs' semifinal win over Michigan State. His offensive rebound and off-balance pass to Gordon Hayward set up a crucial final minute bucket. (JE)

W: is for working the refs. If there's one thing Mike Krzyzewski is better at than coaching basketball it's passive-aggressively staring down refs and getting his Duke team all the calls. Back in the 1980s, Coach K used to complain that there were two sets of rules in college basketball: one for Dean Smith's North Carolina teams and one for everyone else. Ahh, the irony. (CC)

X: is for Xebec. What’s that? A ship that’s guided by three sails. So let’s extend the metaphor by saying that Nolan Smith, Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler are the sails in Duke’s ship. If all are in optimal operating order, Duke is probably going to cruise to victory. (MN)

Y: is for youth, something Butler has in abudance. All but two of the Bulldogs' rotation players are underclassmen, so if Gordon Hayward returns to school, this team will be very strong next year as well. (JE)

Z: is for zero, as in the number of titles Butler will still have after tonight. (CC)

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