The best Saturday of the year in College Basketball is complete. We are down to the Final 2. The last game of the Men’s College Basketball team is set. By midnight tomorrow night, the 2010/2011 season will be in the books. The featured matchup pits a team out of the Horizon League (yes the Horizon League) that was ranked 18th preseason and a team out of the almighty Big East Conference, that was unranked to start the season. Anybody who claims to have seen this coming, is full of it. This may be the most improbable Championship matchup of all time. So who is going to take it home?
Well lets summarize what happened yesterday real fast. In the early game, VCU finally went cold from the perimeter, leading to the clock to strike midnight on their magical journey. VCU seemed to have some bad luck with numerous shots going “in and out.” Their senior PG Joey Rodriguez might have summarized it best when he said, “It just felt like maybe it was not supposed to be.” Well on this night, sadly for the Rams, it was not. Now the real difference in the game. Rebounding. The Bulldogs absolutely massacred the Rams on the boards. This led to easy put backs behind an astounding 15 offensive rebounds. Butler executed yet another flawless Brad Stevens game plan to near perfection.
In the late game, Kentucky came out like they did against West Virginia in last year’s Elite Eight. They could not hit the blind side of a barn. 33 was the defining number. UK shot just 33.9% from the floor, 33.3% from the 3-point line, and 33.3% from the free throw line. Now the shooting from the field and the perimeter improved dramatically in the 2nd half, but 3 of 12 from the charity stripe. No matter how good the Wildcats have played in this tournament, against a team the caliber of UConn, 3 of 12 from the line is not going to cut it no matter how you swing it. It was an amazing run for the Big Blue Nation in the year before the “year” or the year after the “year” for that matter. They really exceeded expectations but did not have enough on this night to take down the best player in the tournament, Kemba Walker.
National Championship Matchup
Butler vs Connecticut: I am still in awe that either of these teams have made it this far. Sure I realize that Butler made it to this game last year and UConn won the Conference Tournament in the best conference in America. It is still mind-boggling that a team who in mid February appeared to be on the outside looking in (Butler) and a team that was unranked/picked to finish in the bottom tier of their Conference to begin the season are the last 2 left standing. One reason why.
Each team’s respective stars have been outstanding. Shelvin Mack has been a rock for the Bulldogs while Kemba Walker has demonstrated why he is the best player in America over this entire month. Not to mention Matt Howard, who appears to really be lacking in athleticism, has been amazing on both ends of the floor and Jeremy Lamb has emerged into an NBA caliber player over the past few weeks.
The Huskies have won 10 consecutive games and are 13 and 0 on the year in tournament play (Maui, Big East Tourney, NCAA Tourney). Butler on the other hand has won 14 straight, and does not appear to be slowing any time in the near future. In addition, these teams have 2 of the top coaches in America patrolling the sidelines. Young Lion versus Old Lion. Stevens versus Calhoun. In this game though, the difference lies in Kemba. Shelvin Mack is a great player with NBA written all over him. But I am not sure I can remember seeing a player put a team on his back the way Kemba has during this magical run. Kemba has that Kobe like winning mentality. No other player in College Basketball has that mentality to the extent that Kemba does. Both of these teams play great defense and will hit the boards. But when the game hits the final minute, the “Kemba Show” will steal the show one last time.
I am taking the Huskies to bring the Big East its first National Championship since UConn handled a very tough Georgia Tech team in 2004. Jim Calhoun will move to 3 and 0 all time in National Championship games.
Tomorrow night will be Kemba’s “Final Shining Moment” in the College game.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.