Butler. UConn. Reliant Center in Houston. One Shining Moment is cued. The ball is tipped... (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
College basketball has gone to the dogs.
No, that's not really a statement on the state of things in Westwood. Well, actually, it could be, But I meant it to apply more literally to tonight's NCAA Championship matchup between the #8 seeded Butler Bulldogs (28-9) and the #3 seeded University of Connecticut Huskies (31-9).
Butler got by VCU in the first semi-final on Saturday, assuring us that a play-in team can't win the title, thus, there is no valid reason to expand the tournament. Go back to 64 teams next year, okay NCAA? UConn squeaked by Kentucky in the second semi-final, assuring us that only one tournament game in Houston will need to be vacated.
This is an interesting matchup. It's the overachieving mid-major against a perennial Big East power. Of course, Butler reached the championship game last year, so maybe they are the returning power? Butler's Brad Stevens looks like a Microsoft intern, but he might be the best coach in the country. He also has the country's most unheralded great player in guard Shelvin Mack. Unless its forward Matt Howard. These two form the core of a Butler team that is well prepared, plays hard, makes few mistakes, and consistently beats teams with more talented rosters. It's easy to root for this team.
UConn meanwhile has the country's most heralded (and deservedly so) player in guard Kemba Walker. But it's freshman guard Jeremy Lamb who might be their most important player. Head coach Jim Calhoun already has two national titles under his belt. A third puts him even with Bob Knight, and behind only Adolph Rupp (4), coach K (4), and Coach (10). That's good company UConn will look to use its athleticism against Butler to penetrate and slash and bully its way to the hoop. It's easy to appreciate these guys' skills.
I did pick the semi-final games right in my open thread preview, but my BN bracket had Duke and Pitt in this game. So take this for what it's worth. My heart will definitely be cheering for Butler, but my brain says UConn is too talented. Besides, they are the only basketball team on their campus still playing. Who would have guessed that 3 weeks ago? The Huskies will cut down the nets tonight.
Here is your Tournament Final Open thread. Have at it.