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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, April 5, 2010

I'll admit I'm a Devils' advocate

By Jeff Portnoy

INDIANAPOLIS —It's David vs. Goliath for the national championship.

Little Butler will face off against my law school alma mater tonight in a game that will pit Duke's incredible offense against Butler's stingy defense. Butler has won 24 in a row, but I believe it will be a decided underdog even though of the 72,000 expected for the game, 65,000 will be rooting for Butler.

It's not as if folks around the country like the Blue Devils anyway, and everybody loves Cinderella. I expect the clock to strike 12.

Duke's triumvirate of Smith, Singler and Scheyer was awesome Saturday, combining for 63 points in a 78-57 victory over West Virginia. West Virginia decided to play man, instead of its 1-3-1 zone, and Duke was just too quick. The Blue Devils also shot 53 percent from 3-point range, making 13 3s.

Saturday's first game was one of the lowest scoring in NCAA semifinal history. Butler won 52-50 despite making only one field goal in the last 12 minutes and being out-rebounded. The Bulldogs won because they were able to score off of turnovers in what was a brutal defensive struggle. Some might say it was quite ugly.

Earlier in the day, I attended the Jewish Coaches annual breakfast at Shapiro's Deli. Believe it or not, there are lots of Jewish basketball coaches, led by Tennessee's Bruce Pearl. I was there as a guest of UH assistant coach Eran Ganot, and had the pleasure of meeting Saint Mary's associate head coach Kyle Smith, the runner-up for the UH head coaching job.

Ganot is still recruiting for UH, even though his future with the program has not been settled. Smith was gracious in his comments about Gib Arnold, only saying that he and Arnold have different coaching philosophies. It is interesting to speculate what might have been if Saint Mary's had not been competing in the Sweet 16 at the time the final decision was made.

Yesterday was an off day, time to explore this great city and its environs. I went to a fabulous Library of Congress traveling exhibit on President Lincoln, which included original drafts of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Thirteenth Amendment, and the Gettysburg Address.

And last night I had the thrill of a lifetime. Everybody has a childhood sports idol and I had the incredible opportunity to meet mine. Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax was sitting a few tables away from me at a restaurant. Koufax, who is a very private person, accepted a short note that I sent to his table and on his way out stopped by to say hello.

Now it's on to the game. Duke and Coach K won their first Final Four here in Indy in 1991. Look for the Blue Devils to make more enemies tonight as they continue to demonstrate why they — along with next-door neighbor North Carolina — are the best teams in college basketball over the past two decades.