On Monday night, the Butler Bulldogs and the Duke Blue Devils will meet for the right to be called National Champions. The opening vegas line has Duke favored by 7 points and the over-under has been set at 129.5 points.
The Horizon League champions marched to this point in NCAA Tournament betting action by taking out #12 UTEP 77-59, #13 Murray State 54-52, #1 Syracuse 63-59, #2 Kansas State 63-56, and #5 Michigan State 52-50. Butler also enters this game on a 25-game winning streak, by far the longest in the country.
The Dookies, the winners of the ACC regular season and conference tournament, also have had a very impressive road to the championship game. They ousted #16 Arkansas-Pine Bluff 73-44, #8 California 68-53, #4 Purdue 70-57, #3 Baylor 78-71, and #2 West Virginia 78-57.
Every now and again, a mid-major team slips through the cracks and knocks off some major conference schools to reach the Elite 8 like Davidson did in 2008 or as St. Joseph’s did in 2004 (albeit as a #1 seed). Even less often, a team like the 2007 George Mason Patriots makes its way to the Final Four.
However, you’re hard pressed to find teams from non-major conference schools that have earned the right to play for a National Championship, and it’s even more difficult to find ones that have won it.
Here’s the list of non-Big Six conference schools that have played for college basketball titles and their results when they got to this point since 1960.
2010: Butler Bulldogs (??? vs. Duke)
2008: Memphis Tigers (L vs. Kansas)
1998: Utah Utes (L vs. Kentucky)
1990: UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (W vs. Duke)
1984: Houston Cougars (L vs. Georgetown)
1983: Houston Cougars (L vs. NC State)
1979: Indiana State Sycamores (L vs. Michigan State)
1974: Marquette Golden Eagles (L vs. NC State)
1973: Memphis Tigers (L vs. UCLA)
1971: Villanova Wildcats (L vs. UCLA)
1970: Jacksonville Dolphins (L vs. UCLA)
1967: Dayton Fliers (L vs. UCLA)
1966: UTEP Miners (W vs. Kentucky)
1963: Loyola Illinois Ramblers (W vs. Cincinnati)
The Bulldogs have already set a bit of history, becoming the first Horizon League team to ever make it to the Elite Eight, the Final Four, or the NCAA Championship Game. They’ve also become the only squad ever to win five games in the NCAA Tournament and hold all five teams under 60 points. Butler is averaging allowing just 55.2 points per game in the dance, an improvement upon its 59.4 points per game allowed on the season.
HC Mike Krzyzewski and his crew have quite the history in the NCAA Tournament as well. The Blue Devils won the NCAA Tournament in 2001, and will be making their first appearance in the title game since that point.
They’re also chasing a tad bit of history from the gambling standpoint. Duke enters this game at a perfect 5-0 ATS. Last season, the North Carolina Tar Heels covered all six spreads en route to the National Championship. However, the previous time that that feat was accomplished was in 2006, when the Florida Gators just narrowly pulled off the accomplishment in spite of a very close call against the spread versus the Georgetown Hoyas in the Sweet 16.
History seems to be on Duke’s side in this game, and as long as the combination of G Jon Scheyer, F Kyle Singler, and G Nolan Smith continues to excel like it did against West Virginia in the Final Four, there may not be any stopping the Dookies. The run has been fantastic for Butler, but it comes to an end just shy of the ultimate goal.
Duke vs. Butler Championship Prediction:
Duke 66 – Butler 60
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