And the winner will be ...
Butler and UConn square off in final game nobody saw coming
BUTLER WILL WIN BECAUSE ...
There are 40 minutes left in the college basketball season, and when the curtain is lowered on it late Monday night at Reliant Stadium, the Butler Bulldogs will be celebrating a win against Connecticut in the national championship game.
Butler isn’t here by mistake. It is here because it didn’t blink when it was starting adversity in the eyes back in February. The Bulldogs responded to three consecutive losses, including two in overtime, to rattle off 14 consecutive wins and earn a second chance at a title, a chance to erase the memories of a 61-59 loss to Duke in 2010.
A lot of people are making a big deal about experience but experience only goes so far.
A lot of people are also making a big deal about the possibility of a mid-major school winning a championship.
The thing is, when Butler takes the floor against UConn in front of more than 75,000 fans and a national television audience, the game isn’t going to be about the Horizon League vs. the Big East.
The game will be about players from two teams lacing up their sneakers and leaving it all on the floor in a basketball game.
Matt Howard backed up that point after the Bulldogs took down Virginia Commonwealth 70-62 in a national semifinal.
“You know, the way we look at it is we want to win,” Howard said. “We don’t look at it as it’s a mid-major that wants to win. We don’t think about what conference somebody is in. It’s about their players, their system, what they do.”
What Butler has done lately is win games. The Bulldogs have been tested along the way, and they have even needed a little luck to survive the road to the Final Four. But good teams needs a little luck. And every good team finds a way to get the job done when the odds seem stacked against it.
It’s called being resilient. Butler has been resilient when it has mattered, and now, with 40 minutes of breath left in the season, Butler is on the cusp of something special.
Tonight, the Bulldogs will take seize the opportunity in front of them and leave town as champions.
-- Brian Lester, NCAA.com
UCONN WILL WIN BECAUSE ...
The UConn Huskies are riding a hot streak, winners of 10 in a row and unbeaten throughout this postseason. Monday night will be no different, look for Kemba Walker and his boys to claim the national title and crowning a champion no one predicted when the tournament started.
The Huskies have taken advantage of the grind that can chew up most teams; they rolled to an improbable finish in the Big East championship and are coming out of the West, where they were when they won their last two National Championships in 1999 and 2008.
UConn has several factors working in their favor Monday night – the biggest advantage the Huskies have is Kemba Walker. Walker has been the best player in the tournament hands down and this team isn’t ‘Kemba and the Four No-Names.” The supporting cast featuring freshmen Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier, Roscoe Smith and sophomore Alex Oriakhi have all made key contributions in this championship run.
The idea of UConn cutting down the nets Monday night has been bouncing around Walker’s head for weeks now.
“I think about it every night,” Walker said after UConn’s shootaround on Sunday. “I thought about it [Saturday night] before the game. I thought about it after we beat Arizona. I can’t stop thinking about it, honestly. I just keep on having these visions of us cutting down the nets and celebrating after the game, so hopefully my visions can come true.”
America has fallen in love with Butler’s basketball wunderkind Brad Stevens, who was a bounced Hail Mary shot from claiming last year’s title, but Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun has been here before – the cranky New Englander is now 5-1 in the Final Four and 2-0 in the National Championship.
Even if most of America is rooting for Butler with the exception of the Nutmeg State, it doesn’t upset the Huskies.
“It doesn’t bother me, freshman Jermey Lamb said., “We play in front of a lot of different crowds so everybody is not going to be out there rooting for us. It’s nothing personal, nothing to get mad at, we’ll have our fans there, too, so we’ve got to be ready."
The Huskies have developed an underdog attitude that Walker attributes to Coach Calhoun.
“I just think it’s because everybody always seems to pick us to lose. If I turn on ESPN, I see five analysts talking and they go around and ask each other who’s going to win the game, and all I heard was Kentucky from five out of five. We always seem to prove those guys wrong. I always tell those guys that everybody has us losing, so let’s go out there, let’s give it our all, and I think great things will happen for us."
Kemba and coaching? That’s a mix that will equal a third National Championship and perhaps a swan song with Jim Calhoun.
-- Craig Thomas, NCAA.com