For the second straight year, the Butler Bulldogs are once again playing in the NCAA championship game, having lost to Duke, 61-59, last year. Meanwhile, the UConn Huskies seek their third tournament title, last having won it in 2004. Can the No. 8 Bulldogs overcome the No. 3 Huskies?
Butler entered the 2011 NCAA Tournament on a nine-game winning streak and a Horizon League championship. It took several tough games to reach this point. In the second round, the Bulldogs defeated Old Dominion by two points, 60-58, which put them in a third-round game against No. 1 Pittsburgh. They squeaked by the Panthers, 71-70, and then had their easiest win of the tournament against No. 4 Wisconsin, 61-54. In the Elite Eight, head coach Brad Stevens' team ran into the No. 2 Florida Gators and needed overtime for the 74-71 victory. Butler then faced perhaps the hottest team in the tournament, the VCU Rams, in the Final Four. A close game for the most part, the Bulldogs came away with the 70-62 victory.
Butler's leading scorer is Matt Howard at 16.7 points, though followed closely by Shelvin Mack at 16.1 points. Howard leads the team in rebounds as well with 7.8 per game. Mack has picked things up during the tournament to average 21.8 points over five tournament games.
The story of the Huskies has been Kemba Walker, who made shot-after-shot, key play-after-key play for the Huskies in the Big East Tournament. In the NCAA Tournament, Walker continued his hot streak with big games against Bucknell and Cincinnati. Having scored 33 points against Cincinnati, Walker put up 36 points on the No. 2 San Diego St. Aztecs in a 74-67 victory. With the help of Jeremy Lamb's 19 points, Walker added an additional 20 points to defeat Derrick Williams and the Arizona Wildcats to advance to the Final Four. Against Kentucky, Walker's 18 points, six rebounds and seven assists helped the Huskies to a 56-55 victory.
SB Nation's Andrew Sharp says go with the Huskies for the victory, but expect Butler to cover the spread. I'll also go with UConn because of Walker's presence, but think the Huskies can pull off a five- or six-point victory.
CBS will have the broadcast starting at 7:00 p.m. MT, but tip-off won't take place until 7:23 p.m.