From the Bird’s Nest:Tonight’s National Championship–Flip a coin
Tonight Butler and Connecticut play for the National Championship in a matchup that seemed most unlikely when the NCAA Tournament began a little more than two weeks ago. Connecticut has won ten straight after finishing ninth in the Big East this year. Many close to the program believe this might be Jim Calhoun’s best coaching job. The fiery Irishman from Massachusetts has been a little mellower this year and has nurtured four freshmen into a position that no one perceived they would be. Kemba Walker is the best player in America, at least during the tournament. And, he proved it against Kentucky. Walker didn’t have a great scoring night, but he was willing to involve his teammates and notched seven assists to go with five rebounds in the game.
Butler, meanwhile, is once again the feel-good story of the tournament. But they’ve been incredibly hot as well. At one time, they were 6-5 in the Horizon League and 14-9 overall. They haven’t lost since. They’ve played like a veteran team during the tournament and have stayed cool under pressure in every game they’ve played. Their coach, Brad Stevens, has put together a team that has his personality: they pay attention to detail and they’re cool under pressure.
This matchup is not a bad one for Butler. Connecticut’s perimeter game is solid, but Butler plays good perimeter defense. Neither team relies a lot on the three point shot, although both are capable.
Tonight, this game will belong to the guards.
Shelvin Mack of Butler and Connecticut’s Walker have been the catalysts for their respective teams. Mack has had an incredible tournament. He’s made big shot after big shot, but like Walker, is also content to get his teammates the ball.
Mack and Walker. They are the guys. Everyone else is a support player tonight.
Connecticut must make sure that they come out and guard Matt Howard when he slides to the peremeter. And, if they’re going to win, UCONN is going to have to make a few threes. They shot very poorly from beyond the arc against Kentucky (depth perception in Reliant Arena probably had something to do with that.) They’ll have to be better tonight if they’re going to win.
This one to me is dead even. Butler has been there-done that. UCONN has a lot of youth. But the Huskies have Kemba Walker. UCONN is more physical. Butler is more disciplined. UCONN has better depth.
See what I mean?
So, in picking a winner tonight, I’m not going with the matchup. There’s something in my gut that tells me there’s an intangible that will work in the Bulldogs favor.
Butler 62, Connecticut 59.