Out of 5.9 million brackets that were filled out on ESPN’s Bracket Challenge only TWO people picked the Final Four teams correctly. I have to believe the two people that predicted VCU, Butler, and Kentucky would beat Kansas, Florida, and North Carolina to get to the Semifinal round had to have used the uniform color method to pick their teams.
To all the other sane bracketeers, UConn is the only finalist that a case could be made for getting this far and still less than 25% of the people who filled out brackets picked the Huskies to make the Final Four. Personally I had St. Johns making the Final Four so that’s how much I know.
This unpredictability is exactly what makes college basketball so exciting at this time of year. All the “experts” who went on TV and said VCU has no shot to get where they are and have no business being in the NCAA Tournament, that say Butler would not repeat their Final Four run from a year ago, that said Kemba Walker would run out of gas, and Kentucky would not beat North Carolina have to go back on-air and rethink their logic (ESPN analyst Dick Vitale is now picking VCU to go to the championship game). Below check out a preview of the last “Four” standing and my pick to win it all!
(11) VCU v. (8) Butler
The Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Rams continue to keep the clock from striking midnight on their Cinderella run. By dispatching the Kansas Jayhawks 71-61 on Sunday (Mar. 27), the only remaining number one seed left in the NCAA Tournament and pick to win it all by President Barack Obama, the Rams have punched their ticket to Houston and the Final Four.
Upsetting all the College Gameday experts who felt the NCAA Selection Committee made a huge mistake even giving VCU an invite to the tournament , the Rams in turn are upsetting every team they face including USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and the aforementioned Kansas in convincing fashion, with only one game decided by single digits. Consider this fact: VCU has as many wins in the NCAA tournament (5) as the New York Knicks do in the entire month of March. SMH.
VCU has made this improbable run by shooting lights out from behind the 3-point arc. Big man Jamie Skeen kept the Morris twins of Kansas off balance by hitting four from long distance. They will rely on their long range prowess to get past Butler’s defense.
If the University of Richmond can give their basketball coach a 10-year contract extension for leading the Spiders to the Sweet 16 in the last two seasons then Butler head coach Brad Stevens (pictured left) should receive a lifetime contract. If it wasn’t for the improbable run by VCU, Butler would be the story of the tournament right now. Coming within a last second shot of winning the entire tournament a year ago, no one predicted Butler would get back to the Final Four especially after losing their best player Gordon Hayward to the NBA. But with the spectacular play of Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack, the Bulldogs are overachieving again.
Sure they may have been assisted by a bonehead foul at the end of the game against Pitt to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat (and deal a crushing blow to my bracket), but after rallying from an 11-point deficit to beat a favored Florida team and become the first school from Indiana to make it to back-to-back Final Four’s (including Bobby Knight’s Indiana squads) Butler is on a mission to, as reserve Ronald Nored so eloquently put it to Butler fans, “get the real call from President Obama and not the runner-up call.”
(3) UConn v. (4) Kentucky
What can you say about University of Connecticut (UConn) star Kemba Walker that hasn’t already been said? Finishing 9th in the Big East coming into the Big East tournament? No problem. Play five games in five days and win said tournament? No sweat. Come into the NCAA tournament as one of 11 teams from your conference and remain the only team standing? Check. With a current post season resume that has him moving up the NBA draft board with every victory, Walker has been a one-man wrecking crew willing his team to victories over San Diego State and the upstart Arizona Wildcats making, as ESPN College Basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla said, swingman Jeremy Lamb “look like (former UConn standout) Ray Allen” in the process. Will Walker have enough left in the tank to get past Kentucky?
The Kentucky Wildcats have not been this far in the tournament since 1998, but with a coach like John Calipari Kentucky, like UConn, getting to The Final Four is a mild surprise. A proven winner at both the University of Massachussets (UMass) and Memphis, Calipari has used his superb motivational and teaching skills to fire up and lead a team fronted by super freshman Brandon Knight to an improbable run.
After losing their entire starting five to the NBA last year (including John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins) and having arguably the second hardest road to The Final Four (besides VCU), that Kentucky took down overall number 1 seed and heavily favored Ohio State and North Carolina to get to Houston is nothing short of remarkable. Calipari led Memphis to the championship game three years ago behind another freshman named Derrick Rose coming a couple of missed free throws short of winning the entire thing. Starting two freshman (forward Terrence Jones is the other),
Calipari is looking to catch lightning in a bottle twice. Kentucky seemingly could not miss from three point land against the Tar Heels in their 76-69 victory. Kentucky shot 55% from deep hitting more 3’s (12) than freethrows (10) for the entire game. Kentucky will need more magic from Knight (he hit the game winner against Ohio State and saved the Wildcats from bowing out against Princeton earlier in the tournament) if they want to get back to the championship game.
This Final Four is the first since seeding began that does not have a number 1 or 2 seed. With UConn being the highest seed remaining, I expect the Huskies to beat Kentucky and get to the championship game against VCU. In the title game VCU’s chariot will finally turn into a pumpkin as Kemba Walker will not let UConn lose after carrying them throughout the tournament. UConn will cut down the nets with a 69-58 victory over the VCU Rams.