Featuring two teams that surpassed almost everyone’s expectations (Butler and VCU), and two power houses (Uconn and Kentucky), tonight’s basketball should start and end great. For each of these teams quite remarkable making it this far. Note at the begginning of the season I didn’t predict any of these four teams making it this far. Say’s something about my predictions and the Cinderella season its been.
UConn- Winning the Maui Invitation to open the season got a lot of attention towards the Huskers and the nations best player, Kemba Walker. It’s been amazing watching Walker take control of this young team and take over when it’s in need of it most. Luckily for Walker, he has found a co-pilot in Jeremy Lamb who has one of the purest jump shots. Through the Big East season Uconn had a lot of up and down stretches. However, tournament time meant step up time and they took the Big East tournament championship by storm. Seeded as a 3, UCONN beat Bucknell, Cinci, SDSU, Arizona to make it to the final four.
Kentucky- John Calipari lost 5 freshman last season to the NBA draft but was able to restock his talent with major contributors, Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb. The most important aspect of this team making it this far has been getting the production out of upperclassmen Darius Miller and Deandre Liggins. Likewise, finding a true post player in Josh Harralson has been the difference. It’s hard to judge this team because you know that they have talent, however, they play in the ultra-easy SEC which provided enough skepticism for me to undervalue them. This Kentucky team started out the NCAA tournament with a buzzer beater win against Princeton, dub against W.V., Ohio State, and North Carolina. This program will continue making trips back to final four with the recruiting classes that Calipari can get. I just don’t know if they’ll ever win it all.
Butler- How did I not foresee this team making it back to the final four? One major problem I considered with Butler was I thought they were going to hurt without their best player from last season, Gordon Hayward. As this team and coach Brad Stevens have shown, they have enough talent and role players to make it work. Matt Howard down in the post has continued to be what he is, a force. Shelvin Mack has been the big time and late game scorer that the team needs, and the have other big time players in Andrew Smith, Ronald Nored and Shawn Vanzant. Butler made it to the Final four with a game winner first round against ODU, beating #1 seed Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, and Florida.
VCU- I know very little about this team except they have won 5 games so far in the tourney, have a damn good coach and are a talented group of shooters. It totally shocked me they absolutely dominated a Kansas team. First, they barely made it into the tournament and have had to play one more game than everyone else. Similarly, they have continued to not miss any 3 point shots. Shaka Smart has a great point guard in Joey Rodriguez and shooters in Jamie Skeen, Brandon Rozell and Bradford Burgess. This team had to play USC in the first play in-game, beat G-town, Purdue, Florida State, and Kansas.
My predictions 20 minutes before the tip.
- I like Butler to get by VCU. The experience for this Butler team has got them this far and they know how to win big and tight games. Similarly, I am hesitant in picking VCU because I figure their shooting can’t continue forever. Should be a low scoring game and a nail biter.
- For the late game and probably the tougher pick I’m going with UCONN. It should be tough for a young Kentucky team to keep their nerves cool. However, UCONN has already had several big games this season and should play much more relaxed.
It’s almost that time