From Underdog to Bulldog: Butler's Experience Could Have RAMifications vs VCU

Mark CrystelContributor IIIMarch 30, 2011

Brad Stevens, 34, with Butler's star Shelvin Mack
Brad Stevens, 34, with Butler's star Shelvin MackStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

If you told fellow NCAAB fans in mid-March that your bracket included VCU and Butler in the Final Four, you probably would have garnered more than a few surprise reactions.

You also probably would have won your bracket.

One of the most intriguing match ups in Final Four history is such because of the surprise factor that comes with it.

One of the most intriguing things about Butler basketball is their young coach Brad Stevens.

He connects with his players. He is good under pressure. Cool, calm and collective, he’s a mastermind really.

At 31-years-old, he led Butler to a 30 win season.

At 33-years-old, he led Butler to the Final Four.

And just a year later, with a win over VCU, he could be leading Butler to the national championship.

VCU’s coach is a similar story.

In his early 30’s like Stevens, and in his first two years at VCU, coach Shaka Smart is 10-0 in post season play. This season’s run has been particularly memorable.

So far VCU has won their first five tournament games. They defeated Georgetown, USC, Kansas and Purdue, by double digits. And they were out-rebounded by 37 boards against Kansas, Florida State and Georgetown but still managed victories.

They’ve been doing it with shooting.

VCU hit 12-25 shots from 3-point range against Kansas, while the Jayhawks hit on only 2-21. That really was the difference.

VCU hit 12-26 from 3-point range against FSU, and shot 57 percent from the field against Purdue.

In the win over Georgetown, they hit 12-25 from 3-point range.

How much longer can this good shooting be sustained?

But really the key here is the circumstance.

Like Northern Iowa last season after defeating Kansas, VCU is probably just glad to be here. Sure, they would like to win the championship, obviously. But the question is whether they’ll be able to stand the propensity of all this craziness against a team like Butler who will be experienced and all business after coming up short against Duke last season.

Is VCU last season’s Butler?

Circumstantially, not quite. Butler came into the Final Four with a win over Kansas State as just a 4-point underdog, while VCU just knocked off arguably the best team in the nation. Also, Butler came into the Final Four with a 24-game winning streak before defeating Michigan State.

If anything for VCU, it’s shades of Colonial division rival George Mason in 2006.

In surprise fashion, the Patriots knocked off Michigan State, UNC and then Connecticut in the Elite 8 before losing handily to Florida in the Final Four.

Like Kansas, Connecticut was 30-3 that season.

The way these two teams are playing, this seems like a game where anything can happen. However, Butler's experience combined with unfinished business from last season could prove to be the difference.

In round one I wrote about Wofford’s chances to cover 8.5 points against BYU. In the Sweet 16, I wrote again about BYU and how they would lose to Florida in the rematch.

For the Final Four, with VCU potentially coming in high off a huge win over Kansas, against a Butler team that’s been here before, the edge must go to the Bulldogs (no longer underdogs) to get a second chance at the title against the winner of Kentucky/UNC.