It’s less than an hour before tipoff and time for the big prediction.

Since my college basketball predictions this March haven’t been all that stellar, don’t fork the entire savings down on this prognostication. Actually, don’t even bet a fifth of it.

Sentimental favorite Butler against elitist program Duke in the NCAA tournament title contest is about as intriguing of a matchup as you can get.

The little program that could – and does – in Butler against Duke, the Atlantic Coast Conference powerhouse program playing in its eighth national championship game during the Mike Krzyzewski era.

The Blue Devils have played terrific basketball over their last 47 minutes – 40 dominating minutes against West Virginia in the Final Four and a spectacular final seven minutes against Baylor in the Elite Eight. Duke’s trio of Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith have been superb and big man Brian Zoubek has stepped up his game.

Butler has its own big three in Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard. The Bulldogs received good news a few hours before tipoff when it was determined that Howard, the Horizon League Player of the Year in 2009, could play in the game after suffering a concussion during Saturday’s victory over Michigan State.

Howard looked slow against the Spartans while struggling to deal with Michigan State’s athleticism. Some of that was due to his injury and he will be a pivotal player Monday night in whether or not Butler can pull off the upset.

Butler (33-4) has won 25 consecutive games and has held each of its five NCAA tournament opponents under 60 points – including impressive victories over Syracuse and Kansas State in addition to beating Michigan State. The Bulldogs need to play the same style of game Monday night – think 51-47 or something like that – to beat Duke.

If the Blue Devils (34-5) hit their 3-pointers and get tons of second-chance points like they did against West Virginia and Baylor, it’s hard to see Butler keeping up with them. Particularly since Duke’s bench is vastly better than what the Bulldogs can offer.

The best thing about this game is that it is being played in Indianapolis. A program like Butler never gets to play programs like Duke in its own neighborhood – not that Duke ventures out much anyway. You may recall the Blue Devils didn’t even win their first road game of the year until January.

The deck is always stacked against the little guy in college basketball so you know where everyone’s hearts are. Just like so many people wanted to see Boise State beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl three-plus years ago, there are millions of people that want to the see the Bulldogs take down the Blue Devils.

Consider this factoid from a CNBC report: Duke spent $394,068 PER PLAYER last year in numbers filed with the government as part of the Equity in Athletics requirement. Butler’s expenses were $347,108 – for the ENTIRE TEAM.

Yes, this is certainly the ultimate David vs. Goliath type of national championship game, which is why it has captured the attention of the nation, not just college hoops fanatics.

It would be historic if Butler pulls out the victory and I would love to see it. The Bulldogs are at least the second best basketball team in this country this season and some of their players even attended class on Monday morning with the national title game looming.

You don’t think John Calipari’s Kentucky players would have been attending class if the Wildcats were in a national title game in Lexington, Ky., do you?

But unfortunately, I learned a long time ago you don’t make predictions with your heart. You make them with your head.

Duke is playing really well and I’m going to predict the Blue Devils win Monday’s game.

Do I want Duke to win? No.

Do I hope I’m wrong? Yes.

This truly is a no-lose situation for Butler so all the pressure is on the Blue Devils. Even more of it is on them now since I just hitched my prediction to their wagon.

Actually, this is really good news for Butler. I’ve had some struggles this March. I actually picked San Diego State to win an NCAA tournament game (dumb) and picked Ohio State to win the national title (dumber). I identified that Murray State should beat Vanderbilt in the first round and I went ahead and wrote down Vandy on my bracket (very stupid).

Now that’s some really bad March Madness.

So my pick is in – which means Butler can now start planning its title-winning celebration.


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