Krzyzewski's pick for 2011 title? Butler

Duke coach likes what he sees in runner-up to his NCAA tournament champion

April 07, 2010|By Shannon Ryan On college basketball

INDIANAPOLIS - Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski had just helped snip down an NCAA tournament championship net Monday night and he predicted who would be favored to stand in that spot next season.

He didn't name Duke.

He picked the team Duke had just beaten.

"Somebody's going to pick the top 10 for next year; where are you going to pick Butler?" he said after winning his fourth national title with a 61-59 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium. "They'll be a favorite next year."

Krzyzewski could be right - as long as a few things at Butler stay the same.

If Butler forward Gordon Hayward decides to return for his junior season instead of opting for the NBA draft, and if coach Brad Stevens says "no thanks" to more lucrative contract offers at bigger schools, the Bulldogs should be a top team for the 2010-11 season.

The difference will be going from a surprise team to a targeted team after the Bulldogs knocked off team after team to advance to the title game for the first time.

"They came one shot away from winning a national championship," Stevens said Monday. "If (the team success) furthers the program, it can't further it by that much. … One of the things we're going to try to do is continue to evaluate and recruit to who Butler is and not worry about what everybody else says about it."

The Bulldogs lose senior Willie Veasley, a guard who averaged 9.8 points, and key reserve forward Avery Jukes.

But they possibly return Hayward and definitely return guards Ronald Nored, Shelvin Mack, Shawn Vanzant and forward Matt Howard.

Duke loses guard Jon Scheyer, center Brian Zoubek and forward Lance Thomas to graduation and possibly junior Kyle Singler to the NBA. Point guard Nolan Smith returns, and the Blue Devils will get a lift as guard Seth Curry becomes eligible after transferring from Liberty to join a strong incoming recruiting class.

When Duke returned to campus Tuesday, fans at a welcome-back ceremony chanted "one more year" at Singler. If he listened, that could improve Duke's outlook.

Scheyer had about 30 friends and family members at Lucas Oil Stadium to watch his final game. It was a memorable outing for the senior.

He said he will meet with Krzyzewski and his father this week to figure out his plan to prepare for the NBA draft. Mock draft lists have him being picked from the second round to not at all.

As for Stevens, he thought only athletic directors trying to fill vacancies wanted to talk to him.

Losing certainly didn't diminish the young coach's popularity. Stevens, 33, took a call from President Barack Obama and also spoke to talk show host David Letterman, a fellow Indiana native.

sryan@tribune.com

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