Butler's Howard questionable for final

Updated: April 5, 2010, 12:35 AM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- Butler coach Brad Stevens was non-committal as to whether starting center Matt Howard will be able to play against Duke in Monday night's national championship game, but any concerns that guard Shelvin Mack wouldn't be able to go were put to rest.

Howard banged his head during the semifinal victory over Michigan State Saturday night and the combination of the injury and four personal fouls limited him to 15 minutes in Butler's 52-50 victory.

Butler trainer Ryan Galloy said Howard has the "mildest of mild concussions" and will be re-evaluated Monday morning.

Matt Howard
AP Photo/Amy SancettaButler's Matt Howard may not play Monday against Duke after suffering a head injury against Michigan State.

Stevens stopped short of calling Howard's injury a concussion during Sunday's media session. He said Howard would not practice Sunday.

"We're just keeping him under observation," Stevens said. "He probably won't practice. It will be a day-of-game decision."

Galloy said Sunday that Howard apparently took two shots to the head in Saturday's game, first banging his head on the floor after a violent collision with two other players. Then, after returning to the game, Howard took an elbow to head, left the game again and did not return.

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

Multiple Butler players said they thought Howard might play after seeing him Sunday morning.

"I talked to him this morning [Sunday] and I think he will [play]," Butler junior guard Zach Hahn said. "Obviously that depends on what doctors said. I think it is very important [that he plays]. Not just that he plays, but that he plays well. Obviously Duke is huge. We haven't really played against size like that yet in this tournament with how big [Brian] Zoubek is and how athletic they are off the bench."

Butler sophomore forward Gordon Hayward said that someone will step up and that Howard's absence "won't faze us." Howard was just 1 of 7 against Michigan State, but facing Duke without him leaves the Bulldogs with reserve centers Avery Jukes (1 of 6 against MSU) and Andrew Smith (both had just one rebound each). The Bulldogs have gone small before and will likely need to do the same against Duke, although they'll still have to rebound to have a chance at winning.

Meanwhile, there was initial concern about Mack's health since he came out of the game multiple times with what appeared to be cramps or dehydration as he was stretching and drinking water. But Mack said Sunday he was sick.

"I had some food poisoning from dinner on Thursday," said Mack, who still scored 14 points in 25 minutes. "We were at a restaurant and I was throwing up real bad. I think that took a lot of fluids out of me. I just wasn't able to go in the second half."

Mack said his stomach issues forced him to cramp.

"I wouldn't be able to go 100 percent so I didn't want to shortchange my teammates," Mack said. "I was just glad that my teammates did a good job out there on the court and gave me another opportunity to come out and play on Monday night."

Mack said he would have no issue practicing Sunday and would be ready to play Monday night.

Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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