Sunday, April 3, 2011

Butler, UConn will duel for the crown to cap wild NCAA tourney

With the exception of a small pocket in the Northeast, the nation will likely be rooting for the ultimate underdog come Monday night.

Butler wore its white home uniforms and was favored for the first time in this NCAA tournament on Saturday night against VCU in the national semifinals in Houston. And after dispatching of the Rams, 70-62, the Bulldogs are back in the title game for the second year in a row.

Back to the David role.

The opponent this time around is another one of college basketball's premier power programs, as UConn's torrid postseason run behind star guard Kemba Walker claimed yet another victim. The Huskies pushed Kentucky aside in Saturday's nightcap, 56-55.

The marquee match-up within the match-up will, of course, involves Walker, who had 18 points, seven assists and six rebounds in a gritty effort against the Wildcats. He'll line up across from Butler junior Shelvin Mack, who again was masterful on Saturday. He had only one major lull, coming early in the second half, but scored 24 points off of 8-of-11 shooting, including a 5-of-6 showing from the free throw line.

UConn's run is more unexpected than many might now admit, as the Huskies appeared almost out of gas when they lost four of five games to close out the regular season. However, the steam built first with a five-wins-in-five-days jaunt through the Big East tournament, and they haven't slowed.

Unfortunately, Jim Calhoun's team will automatically assume the role of the villain here, as Butler's story is essentially a real-life Disney movie of sorts.

When Butler lost sophomore star Gordon Hayward to the NBA draft after last season's unexpected journey to the national title game, it was assumed that the Bulldogs would remain strong, but likely not reach the same height as a team.


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