Unsung Butler faces powerhouse Duke for the title

By Steve Ginsburg

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Unheralded, unsung and virtually unknown just two weeks ago, Butler looks to pull off a basketball miracle when it faces Duke for the national championship Monday.

Most of the 71,000 people at Lucas Oil Stadium as well as most of America will undoubtedly be pulling for Butler, a tiny private school with no Final Four pedigree before this year.

"Every year you get inspired by groups that come together that are certainly willing to put aside their individual talent for the betterment of the team," said Butler coach Brad Stevens.

"That doesn't mean they don't utilize their individual talent, but certainly they put their team above self.

"If that can be the inspiration, then we are really honored to carry that flag."

Krzyzewski believes Duke and Butler, champions of the little-known Horizon League, play the same type of game.

"Both teams play really well together," he told reporters on Sunday. "It starts on the defensive end. They play as one. The guys who should take a few more shots for them take them, just like us. They play very hard, they're very smart.

"It's never one on one. You have to beat their entire team when you're playing offense against them. We hope most of the time that's the way it is when they're playing against us."

WINNING STREAK

If Butler can beat the Blue Devils, their 26-game winning streak to close the season would be the longest by a champion since Indiana went 32-0 in the 1975-76 campaign.

"One of the reasons why I think these guys have had success is because they don't pay a whole lot of attention to what is being said," said Stevens, at 33 the second-youngest coach to reach the championship.

"We've been talked about like we're supposed to win, we've been talked about like we're supposed to lose. It's more about preparing and trying to do your very best."

In an era of big-time college athletics, Butler, a school of about 4,500 students, does not have an athletic dormitory or a practice facility. Their arena, Hinkle Fieldhouse, was built in 1928.

Butler's leading scorer, Gordon Hayward, said he was "up for the challenge" of facing Duke, one of the top basketball programs in the country.

"We believe in ourselves," he said. "We've played other opponents like this. Once the ball goes up in the air, all that's going to disappear and it's just five on five.

"We view them as another opponent, someone we're going to play and try to beat."

(Editing by Sonia Oxley)