This year’s Division I NCAA Championship Tournament has been one for the ages. For the third time ever, there are no No. 1 seeds in the Final Four. There are no No. 2 seeds heading to Houston either.
The left half of the bracket features No. 4 Kentucky against No. 3 Connecticut. Kentucky barely escaped No. 13 Princeton in their first matchup of the tournament. They were able to win on a lay up by freshman guard Brandon Knight in the final seconds. They took down No. 5 West Virginia with some ease, then went on to defeat the top overall seed, Ohio State, on another last second score. They moved on to the Final Four by defeating No. 2 North Carolina with a late rally to hold off a Tarheel comeback.
UConn came into the tournament on a five-game win streak, which earned them a Big East Conference championship after going 9-9 in conference play during the season. They destroyed Bucknell in their first game of March Madness and took down Big East rival Cincinnati after that. In the Sweet Sixteen, they knocked off No. 2 San Diego State, which had only lost two games all season. They played a tough game with No. 5 Arizona, but held on late to earn themselves a trip to the Final Four. Junior guard Kemba Walker has been one of the most dominant players in the dance, averaging almost 27 points per game for the Huskies in the tournament.
This matchup is a tough call. Kemba Walker is the hottest player in the NCAA right now and by far the best player left in the tournament. The key to a Kentucky victory is the almost impossible task of keeping Walker in check. If he is free to take shots and drive the lane, this game will belong to UConn.
The right side of the bracket is the real shocker. The other matchup on Saturday night features the highest seed total ever in a Final Four matchup. No. 8 Butler, last year’s runner up, takes on No. 11 VCU, the third 11 seed to ever make the Final Four.
Butler had the experience to make a run after falling to Duke in the national championship game last year, and put that experience to good use. They have taken down No. 9 Old Dominion, No. 1 Pittsburgh, No. 4 Wisconsin and No. 2 Florida all in games that came down to the wire. Butler plays close games well and finishes strong. This makes them a very legitimate contender for the title next weekend.
Virginia Commonwealth has been the Cinderella story of this year’s tournament. They started the tournament in the First Four and had to defeat Southern California to enter the round of 64. They went on to upset teams like No. 6 Georgetown and No. 3 Purdue in games that were not even close. They took on No. 10 Florida State in the Sweet Sixteen, another team that was hoping to have their own Cinderella story. This game finished with a 71-70 VCU victory in overtime. They then took on, and easily defeated, No. 1 Kansas to earn their spot in the Final Four. Head coach, Shaka Smart, has them playing very intelligent basketball and has them prepared to beat any opponent.
This game will be interesting the say the least. Both teams have definitely earned the right to play at this stage, but barely anybody (192 of almost six million people in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge) had VCU vs. Butler in the Final Four. Both have great coaching and talented players, but the Butler Bulldogs have the experience to get themselves back to the championship game.
Out of those 192 people that have VCU and Butler in the Final Four, only two correctly picked all four teams. This year’s tournament redefines the word madness, with more to come this weekend.