We are down to the final weekend of the Madness. This is it folks. Your next National Champion will be crowned on Monday Night. This year’s Final Four participants are probably the most improbable foursome in the history of the NCAA Tournament. If people tell you that they saw this coming. They are lying.
Remember that in the ESPN Bracket Challenge, only 2 of 5.9 million participants guessed the Final Four correctly. You do not need to be a math major to understand how unlikely this outcome was. But none of that matters. There are 3 more basketball games left this season. At the end of the 3rd, the 2010-2011 National Champion will be crowned.
In the earlier game, you have the matchup of the “Davids.” The Cinderella stories looking to extend the ball one more game. In the late game, we have the battle of the “Goliaths.” Two storied programs looking to add one more banner to their already glowing histories.
As I have done during the course of the tournament, I am going to provide you with my predictions.
Virginia Commonwealth vs Butler: Who saw this matchup coming? Neither team has a rich basketball tradition. Neither was ranked. Both squads barely even made the tournament. Many questioned VCU’s invitation to the tournament altogether, while Butler played great down the stretch to solidify a bid with a Horizon League Tournament Championship. I still cannot believe that this is a Final Four matchup. But it is. The Cinderella story will continue for one of these remarkable teams while the others will end.
For the first time in 2 years, I am going with the Butler Bulldogs. I have picked against these guys in every round for the past 2 tournaments. I know Brad Stevens is a great coach. I know that Shelvin Mack, Matt Howard, and the rest of the bunch can really play. I just never quite put it together on why these guys kept winning. Maybe I have finalized wised up.
VCU on the other hand is a team that nobody thought even deserved a bid into the tournament. I mean, they finished 4th in the Colonial Athletic Association for crying out loud. Shaka Smart, Jamie Skeen, and the little man Joey Rodriquez have become the darlings of this tournament. Whether they deserved a bid at this point is irrelevant. They have knocked off teams from the PAC 10, Big East, Big Ten, ACC, and Big 12 in route to Houston. I would say that is pretty darn good.
When looking at this collision of the “Davids,” I am going with the “David” that has been there before. Not only do I think Brad Stevens is a slightly better coach than Shaka Smart, but I think he has a more talented team at his disposal. Butler has grinded out close game after close game with outstanding composure in the final couple of minutes for weeks now (and really for 2 years). VCU has basically blown people out behind outstanding perimeter shooting all tournament long. VCU’s never hit more than 11 3-pointers in a game pre March Madness this year. In the tournament, they have hit 12 in 3 different games. Brad Stevens will come up with the remedy and ride his outstanding inside out presence of Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard to a 2nd consecutive National Title Game. Butler by 2 in a down to the wire finish. Could the Bulldogs be playing for keeps this year?
Kentucky vs Connecticut: 2 of the hottest teams in America match up in a rematch of the Maui Invitational Championship game. On that night, Kemba Walker stole the show. On this night, who will steal the show?
Though Kentucky are winners of 10 straight games, do not let their recent streak fool you. This was a team that nobody expected to do much damage in the tournament. Many thought that this year was just a precursor to the “year.” UK has arguably the greatest recruiting class of all time coming to Lexington next Fall. So nobody expected this so soon. But you better believe Big Blue Nation is loving every second of their first Final Four Trip in 13 years.
UConn was also not expected to be here. The Huskies were unranked to start the year and picked to finish in the bottom tier of the Big East. Boy were the experts wrong. Behind the stellar play of Kemba Walker, the inside presence of Alex Oriakhi, and the emergence of Super Freshman Jeremy Lamb, the Huskies are now winners of 9 straight games and appear to have the ability to beat anybody. Can they win 2 more games and end the year with a perfect 14 and 0 record in tournament play?
You better believe it. I will admit that UK is playing outstanding basketball right now. They knocked off the best all around team in the country in the Ohio State Buckeyes. They seem to really be gelling at the right time. But UConn has looked unbelievable since the beginning of the Big East Tournament. And though UK has some very talented players in guys like Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones, and others, I do not think they match up well overall with the Huskies. They have no answer for the Batman and Robin combo that is Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb.
This will be a very exciting game where the best player in the tournament takes over. Expect the Kemba Show to continue one more game. I got the Huskies by 2 in a thriller.
National Championship Predictions will be coming before the National Title Game on Monday night.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.