National championship fearless forecast
BUTLER VS. DUKE
Gerry Ahern: Duke 75-60 Jason King: Duke 74-62
Gerry Ahern: Back and front. Duke’s guard tandem of Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith are simply more talented and dangerous than Butler’s Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored. Look at the shooting display the Blue Devils put on in a semifinal win against West Virginia. Up front, the Bulldogs have no one to counter 7-foot-1 Brian Zoubek, a rebounding force. Matt Howard could be out with a potential concussion. Butler’s Gordon Hayward has become the story of the tournament, but Duke’s Kyle Singler is every bit his equal when he is on. When the Blue Devils can bring 6-foot-10 Miles Plumlee and 6-10 Mason Plumlee off the bench, their advantage becomes even more pronounced.
Jason King: My score prediction says more about what I think of Duke than what I think of Butler. The Bulldogs deserve everyone’s respect for beating Syracuse, Kansas State and Michigan State en route to earning a championship game berth. But they won’t be able to stop the nation’s top scoring trio of Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith, who combined for 12 3-pointers and 63 points in Duke’s semifinal blowout of West Virginia. Toss in an underrated frontcourt of Brian Zoubek, Lance Thomas and the Plumlee brothers, and this looks like a mismatch. The chemistry and the vibe surrounding this Duke team is just too good right now.
Gerry Ahern: Butler’s rabid defenders. The Bulldogs have held their NCAA tournament opponents to 55.2 points per game. They have to keep the game in the 50s or perhaps 60s to have a chance. Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored must knock Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith off kilter. That will be difficult.
Jason King: Everyone says that Duke is short on future NBA talent, but don’t be surprised if the 7-1 Zoubek is on a pro roster next season. He’s a relentless rebounder, especially on the offensive end, and plays with a mean streak that makes him an intimidating force in the paint. Butler doesn’t have anyone that can match up with him.