Final Four notebook

Butler's Matt Howard could sit out national title game because of a concussion

By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 5, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS -- Butler could face a significant disadvantage if 6-foot-8 forward Matt Howard is unavailable for Monday's national title game after suffering what school officials called a mild concussion in the second half of Saturday's victory over Michigan State.

Howard, the team's third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, did not practice Sunday and his availability will be a game-time decision by Butler Coach Brad Stevens.

"It's very important not only that he plays but that he plays well," Butler guard Zach Hahn said. "Duke is huge. We have not played a team that huge in the tournament."

Hahn, who talked to Howard on Sunday morning, said he believes Howard will play despite hitting his head on the floor during Butler's 52-50 victory. Ryan Galloy, Butler's head athletic trainer, said in a statement that Howard's symptoms are being monitored and that he will be evaluated Monday.

"He did have a good night's sleep," Stevens said. "He is feeling a little bit better. One thing is, his health is numero uno. If he can't play, he can't play."

Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said he expects Howard to play and that, after speaking to Stevens during a joint television interview, he believes Howard is questionable primarily for precautionary reasons. Krzyzewski is confident Butler could adapt even if Howard was not available because the Bulldogs have thrived when Howard has battled foul trouble throughout the NCAA tournament.

If Howard cannot play, 6-8 senior Avery Jukes and 6-11 freshman Andrew Smith will need to hold their own against the bruising Duke front court of Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas, two players who excel at offensive rebounding. Jukes and Smith have played a combined 66 minutes in this season's NCAA tournament.

"They have the two Plumlee [brothers] and Zoubek," Smith said, "and they are all about seven-feet tall, which is taller than all of our post players. I feel like we can outrebound them, box them out."

Butler guard Shelvin Mack, who played just eight minutes in the second half of the Michigan State game because of dehydration, said he has been sick for a few days but will be ready to play Monday.

Age is just a number

Stevens, 33, is the second-youngest coach ever to reach the national title game. Indiana Coach Branch McCracken was 31 when Indiana played in the 1940 national title game.

Experience aside, Stevens already has beaten coaching luminaries such as Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and Michigan State's Tom Izzo in this year's tournament. Up next: Krzyzewski, who has three national titles and 11 Final Four appearances.

"For them to even come over and shake my hand, they don't need to do that," Stevens said. "I think the best way I can put it is, they write books and I get to read 'em."

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