Don't believe all the David-Goliath nonsense
Mike DeCourcy
The Sporting News
Sunday, Apr. 4, 2010

[IMGR][/IMGR]INDIANAPOLIS—Well beneath the towering, retractable roof of Lucas Oil Stadium, the words "David" and "Goliath" were getting worked out like nowhere outside the Book of Samuel.

This wasn't a Sunday school session, but rather the pregame press conference in advance of the 2010 NCAA championship game matching Duke and Butler. It seemed not to embarrass any of the journalists questioning the coaches and players along these lines to reach for the easiest, most clichéd metaphor any of them ever would employ.

Maybe they had dinner reservations.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was asked if he would talk about "the whole David versus Goliath" issue. His answer, and good for him: "I won't."

He said it kindly.

Yes, Duke invests a lot more money in its program than Butler does.

"I read somewhere that Duke spends like $350,000 per player, and we spend that much on our entire program," Bulldogs guard Shelvin Mack said.

The math is a shade off. The disparity actually is greater, and it is remarkable his university has been able to build such an extraordinary program—perhaps a national championship program, after Monday night—on such a meager budget.

Otherwise, though, the presentation of this Duke team as some sort of titan and Butler as some lively little underdog might be setting a world record for revisionist history.

For goodness sakes, the history hasn't even been written and it's already being revised.

"The two best teams are playing for the championship," Duke center Brian Zoubek said. "They are that good."

The issue was raised several times Sunday about whether Butler could pull off the greatest upset in NCAA championship game history, surpassing the achievements of Villanova in 1985 (over Georgetown) and N.C. State in 1983 (over Houston). Even that's a reach. Villanova entered its game as a nine-point underdog. Oddsmakers gave N.C. State 8 points against Houston and Phi Slamma Jamma.

On, this Duke team is favored by 7 points, not even as big a margin as Carolina carried into last year's title game against Michigan State.

When this college basketball season began, Duke widely was portrayed as an empire in decline. It had not reached the Final Four in five years, its longest drought since Krzyzewski made his first appearance in 1986.

The Devils lost badly to Villanova in last year's Sweet 16 and had seen two NBA-level talents depart the program: wing Gerald Henderson had gone early to the league, and guard Elliot Williams had transferred home to Memphis to be closer to his mother, who was ill.

Up the road, rival North Carolina was celebrating a second NCAA title in the past five seasons and a top-three recruiting class—and had just beaten the Devils on No. 1-ranked 2010 prospect Harrison Barnes, whom Duke had identified as a priority before the Heels had gotten involved.

"This team, they've been through a lot," said Duke graduate assistant Chris Carrawell, who lost with the Devils in the 1999 championship game to Connecticut.

When this season began, Butler was widely viewed as a program with potential reaching far beyond its mid-major status. Forward Gordon Hayward and guard Shelvin Mack had played for the United States U-19 national team, which won the gold medal—with Hayward emerging as the team's star and Mack being named team captain.

In the Sporting News College Basketball yearbook, Duke was ranked No. 8 and Butler No. 14. In the first ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, it was Duke No. 8, Butler No. 10. At the end of the season, Butler had climbed firmly inside the top 10, at No. 8. Duke was at No. 3.

Butler endured some disappointing losses during the regular season, falling to both Minnesota by nine and UAB by 10. The Bulldogs also defeated Ohio State and Xavier and have constructed a 25-game winning streak.

Duke was embarrassed by Georgetown and N.C. State—not even a bubble team. But the Devils also pounded Gonzaga and won the regular season and ACC tournament championships.

So there never has been any widespread perception of a vast competitive difference between this Duke team and this Butler team, until it became a convenient device upon which to hang a newspaper story.

There'll be little disagreement from Butler's side, and no wonder.

"It's absolutely fine. We embrace that," Butler coach Brad Stevens said. "You know, it makes me feel good. David won."