Raise your hand if you had Butler v UConn in your National Championship bracket?? It’s been a crazy road to this year’s Final Four – and while the game may not have the glamour and sizzle of an Ohio State v Kansas, or Duke and North Carolina, it is a fascinating and high-quality match-up.
It’s an exciting night, but also a sad one for us college hoops die-hards, for as we crown the National Champ, we also must say goodbye to college hoops and conclude one of the most exhilarating three weeks in sports.
National Final Pick:
#8 Butler v. #3 Connecticut -3
Looking back on regular season results is a little irrelevant at this point… BUT if you were to do so you’d find that UConn went 9-9 in conference play, and at one point earlier in the season, Butler sat at 6-5 in conference play with losses to Cleveland State, Milwaukee, and perhaps the most bizarre loss opf the season; Youngstown State.
Suffice it to say those results are long since in the rear-view mirror.
UConn enters tonight’s game having reeled off an incredible 11 straight wins, a streak made even more incredible when you consider the caliber of teams they have defeated. Winning five games in five nights to capture the Big East crown MIGHT turn out to be more difficult than the NCAA Tourney, as Coach Calhoun suggested, after all.
Kemba Walker has been the steam to the Husky engine, averaging a team-high 25 points per game in the Tourney. However, Walker does need to be careful handling the basketball tonight against Butler. His six turnovers against Kentucky turned out not to be a huge issue, but against a team that values possessions the way Butler does, every turnover could prove costly.
For Butler, Shelvin Mack – their point guard, has been every bit as spectacular as Kemba Walker, only without the fanfare that surrounds Kemba. Mack’s 21.4 ppg are nice, but the manner in which he has delivered them; seemingly all coming in incredible clutch and tense moments, has been what makes Mack’s Tourney performance one for the ages.
In the end, it is going to come down to the “hustle-plays” – and that means Matt Howard for Butler and Orihaki for UConn. I give the edge, though not athletically, to Howard. The senior seems to be in the exact right place at the exact right time at exactly the right moment. I’m not exactly sure what that skill is called; but it certainly leads to more wins than losses in March.
It feels odd to call Butler “experienced” but that is precisely what they are at this point. The list of teams that have played in back-to-back National Championship games is not a very long one, and Butler may be the most unlikely on that elite list.
I like the Bulldogs to finish off what they narrowly missed last year, and capture the school’s first National Championship. Not bad for a “mid-major”…
FREE PICK: Butler +3
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