Championship Game Preview

Connecticut Huskies’ Kemba Walker reacts after making a basket against the Kentucky Wildcats during their semi-final NCAA Final Four college basketball game in Houston, Texas, April 2, 2011. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Connecticut vs. Butler…who would have thunk it?

Roughly 50% of the bracket-playing population had the Bulldogs losing their first round game against Old Dominion, so for Butler to still be alive is nothing short of shocking. Sure, they made the title game last year, but they lost their best player (Gordon Hayward) to the NBA and at one point during they season, they were 14-9 and coming off a three-game losing streak to UW-Milwaukee, Valparaiso and Youngstown St. Needless to say, what Brad Stevens and Co. have done over the past two years (10-1 in the tournament, 11-0 against the spread) is nothing short of amazing, especially for a mid-major.

On the flip side, it isn’t mind-blowing that UConn made the title game, especially with the way Kemba Walker played in five straight games in the Big East Championship. Freshman Jeremy Lamb has been a solid sidekick, and the Huskies proved on Saturday night that they can play some lockdown defense as they held Kentucky to just 34% shooting from the field. They’re more athletic than the Bulldogs and they will have the best player on the court in Walker.

But there is something about Butler that gives them the edge in a tight game. In many ways, the team has taken on the personality of the unflappable Stevens, so as long as they can keep the game close, there’s a good chance that they’ll figure out a way to pull out a win. How do they do it? Matt Howard outworks opposing big men while shotmaker Shelvin Mack is something of a poor man’s Walker. When the Bulldogs need a bucket, he usually delivers.

This is probably going to be another white-knuckle finish, and if that’s the case, I’m going with my heart and taking the Bulldogs. Considering I picked VCU and Kentucky in Saturday’s game, I’m probably putting the hex on the underdogs.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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