Your quick and dirty Final Four preview

Butler Bulldogs head coach Brad Stevens encourages his team playing against the Florida Gators in the second half during their NCAA Southeast Regional college basketball game in New Orleans, March 26, 2011. REUTERS/Sean Gardner (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Butler vs. VCU

Spread: Butler -2.5; Sagarin: Butler -1.45; Pomeroy: Butler 55.3%
Butler is the slight favorite, and if this game comes down to the final few possessions, I have to give the Bulldogs the edge due to their amazing ability (fortune?) to triumph in close games. However, Butler has only won their four tournament games by a total of 13 points, so they have hardly been as dominating as the Rams, who have beaten #1 Kansas, #3 Purdue, #6 Georgetown and #11 USC by an average of 14.8 points. Their lone tight game was against #10 Florida State, which went to overtime.

The key for the Rams has been their lights-out three-point shooting. They have hit 44% of their attempts in the tourney, after shooting just 36% during the season. Will this hot shooting continue in a football stadium against Butler, which very good at defending the three-point line (32.4%)? If the Rams hit 40%+ from long range, they have a chance for a 10- to 15-point win, especially if they use their depth to press, something that has rattled the Bulldogs in this tournament.

My pick: VCU

Kentucky vs. UConn

Spread: UK -2; Sagarin: UK -2.32; Pomeroy: UK 58.4%
After watching UConn play in a tough environment against both SDSU and Arizona, there’s no doubt that the Huskies are mentally tough enough to leave Houston with a title. Kentucky has the more talented rotation, but the key to this game will be how the Wildcats defend Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb. Against both SDSU and Arizona, Walker carried the Huskies early, but at some point in the second half, Lamb stepped up with several big shots to help to put those two games away.

If you go with the “best player on the floor” argument, UConn probably has the edge because of Walker. He’s lightning quick and can usually get a good look at the basket whenever he wants. The Wildcats have more balance, with four players averaging double-digits and two more averaging 7.9 ppg or more. Brandon Knight has hit some clutch shots and UConn hasn’t had to wrangle a guard of his caliber so far in the tournament.

In the end, the Wildcats have the edge. They own the 4th-best Pomeroy rating and look more like a national championship-caliber squad with their elite (#7) offensive efficiency and more than capable defense (#20). That said, if Walker and/or Lamb get hot, this will be a close game.

My pick: Kentucky

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