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In 1983, the N.C. State Wolfpack registered one of the biggest upsets in NCAA history when they defeated the Houston Cougars in the championship game. It was also the last championship game where neither team broke the 60-point plateau. Twenty-eight years later, the Butler Bulldogs and Connecticut Huskies fought in yet another David v. Goliath game where neither team reached 60 points. That was the only thing that the two games had in common.
After a closely-contested first half, UConn pulled away in the second half and defeated Butler 53-41 for their third national championship.
Kemba Walker led all scorers with 16 points. Jeremy Lamb had 12 points and Alex Oriakhi had 11. For Butler, Shelvin Mack had 13 points, while Matt Howard struggled with seven points and only one field goal.
A sloppy first 20 minutes ended with Butler holding a 22-19 lead and a Chase Stigali three-pointer would give them a 25-19 lead out of the gate. But a 14-1 UConn run in response would put them in control for the rest of the game.
The Bulldogs are used to playing low-scoring games, but it did not play into their hands Monday. The Huskies used their size advantage to disrupt Butler's offensive flow. Butler shot an abysmal 12-for-64 and only three of their made field goals were from inside the three-point line.
Connecticut, who became the first team in Big East history to win five games in five days en route to a Big East Tournament championship, has now won three championships since 1999 (2004).
It hasn't been pretty, but the first half of the 2011 NCAA Championship Game has come to end with the Butler Bulldogs holding onto a 22-19 lead over the Connecticut Huskies.
Both teams are shooting the ball poorly with Butler and UConn shooting a combined 15-for-58. Butler is shooting 22 percent, but luckily for them, five of their six field goals are three-pointers. Shelvin Mack hit one with one second left to break the tie before the half.
Kemba Walker leads the Huskies with seven points. Mack leads the Bulldogs with seven of his own. Matt Howard has been ineffective thus far with only five points on 1-for-6 shooting and two rebounds.
UConn is taking advantage of their size and strength advantage by disrupting Butler's offensive flow, but a low-scoring game plays into the latter's hands. It is possible that neither team will break the 60-point mark. The last title game when neither team broke the 60-point mark was in the pre-shot clock era of 1983 when N.C. State upset Houston 54-52.
The 2011 NCAA Championship game pits No. 8 seed Butler against No. 3 seed UConn in a battle of one "Cinderella" who went to the title game last season against a power-conference school that was picked to finish 10th in the Big East this season. It's a matchup of contrasts, with the rock-solid play of Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack going up against the breathtaking play of Kemba Walker.
The game is scheduled to tip off at 9:23 p.m. ET, with CBS' coverage of the event beginning at 9 p.m. Jim Nantz will be the lead announcer, with Clark Kellogg and Steve Kerr providing analysis. Tracy Wolfson will be the game's sideline reporter. The game will take place at Reliant Stadium in Houston, which is traditionally the home of the Houston Texans.
Connecticut is favored to win, but not by as much as one would think. The line began at four points, but it is now at three points. Clearly, Butler is not as much an underdog as it was last season against Duke.
We have our NCAA championship matchup set: It will be the Butler Bulldogs taking on the Connecticut Huskies, who defeated Kentucky 56-55 to get to the last game of the tournament.
The Huskies are rolling on thanks in large part to their star point guard, junior Kemba Walker. The Bronx native scored 18 points, dished seven assists and grabbed six rebounds to help pace his team to victory. Walker along with the rest of the Huskie team have been on a roll ever since the start of the Big East tournament, where they won five games in five days. Walker was big for the Huskies during that tournament run, just as he has during this run.
The game against the Wildcats was a tough, hard fought affair that saw two teams with offensive prowess flex their muscle defensively. UConn usually finds itself in higher scoring affairs, but Kentucky was able to hold them down. Despite that, Walker and company still got the job done for coach Jim Calhoun, who will be returning to his first NCAA championship game since the 2004 season.
Their upcoming matchup with Butler will certainly be intriguing, as there are plenty of matchups to watch. The most noteworthy of course being Butler point guard Shelvin Mack versus Walker in a matchup of perhaps the tournaments best two guards.
In a wild and unpredictable tournament, we will once again see the Butler Bulldogs taking on a national powerhouse program. We'll see if they will be able to take home the title this time.
VCU's NCAA Tournament run is over after a 70-62 loss to Butler in the 2011 Final Four. Along the way, the No. 11 seed Rams shocked America and somehow defeated five straight power-conference teams to do it. Many felt VCU didn't even deserve to be in the field as an at-large team, something that VCU coach Shaka Smart continued to remind his team as it advanced.
Smart was asked about that in the post-game press conference following the loss to Butler, and he explained that he made a decision when the tournament started to pursue that strategy.
Everyone talks about the way that we've utilized the media doubting us. I made the decision at the beginning of the NCAA tournament that we could either ignore what people were saying or we could go right back at 'em. And with today's social media, today's media, it's so hard to ignore. So our guys did a great job of sinking their teeth into that. And it brought our team closer together, brought our players really tight
You certainly can't argue with the results.
For the second year in a row, the Butler Bulldogs will be playing in the national championship game. Brad Steven's team held off Shaka Smart's Virginia Commonwealth Rams 70-62 to advance to the 2011 NCAA title game against the winner of the Kentucky/UConn Final Four matchup.
Butler dominated the boards, out rebounding VCU 43-30. They held the Rams to 39 percent shooting, but more importantly, they held VCU to just eight of 22 shooting from downtown, where the Rams have lived and excelled all tournament long.
Shelvin Mack was once again the star for the Bulldogs, scoring 24 points on eight of 11 shooting from the field (five of six from triple). Matt Howard was his normal bruising self, adding 17 points and eight boards.
Jamie Skeen did his best to continue the Cinderella run of Shaka's Flaka, scoring 27 points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out three assists. Unfortunately for the Rams, Skeen was the lone bright spot, as poor shooting and a 16/12 assist to turnover ratio doomed VCU.
Monday night, Butler and the nation get to relieve some deja vu, all over again, as noted wordsmith Yogi Berra once told us.
A second half that began with double digit lead changes and multiple ties has seen the Butler Bulldogs establish a seven point lead, 61-54, behind stout defense and solid glass work.
Shelvin Mack has absolutely taken over this game, scoring 23 points on five of six shooting from three point land. For one four minute stretch Mack scored 10 straight points for Butler. Bulldog big Matt Howard, despite four fouls, has added 11 points, six rebounds, two rebounds and two steals.
Jamie Skeen and Bradorrd Burgess have done their best to keep VCU in the game, scoring 34 combined points. Rams point guard and sparkplug Joey Rodriguez has struggled with just three points and six assists.
Butler has played ugly, but despite shooting just 35 percent they have dominated the glass, leading to easy buckets and second change opportunities. VCU will have to find a way to keep Butler off the boards and limit them to just one shot per possession to have a chance of pulling this rabbit out of the hat.
Butler leads VCU 44-43 as the second half of this Final Four matchup has seen the lead seesaw back and forth in an intense, hard fought game. The second half has had eight lead changes alone.
Despite three personal fouls Jamie Skeen has helped the Rams cut into Butler's six point halftime lead. Skeen has 18 points on seven of 12 shooting from the field. VCU has made only five of 15 three pointers, however, after beginning the game four of eight.
Butler has really taken advantage of second chnage opportunities, outscoring the Rams 17-6 in that ever important category.
Once VCU took the brief lead, then it became a game of punch, counter punch as each team took turns responding to each others best shot.
This game is clearly one that will go down to the wire, as each team is executing well in spurts, and whoever has the ball last looks like they could win the game.
Butler's dominant defense, a major storyline leading into this Final Four matchup, has indeed been the story in the first half as the Bulldogs lead 34-28. Butler closed the half on a 19-8 to take their largest lead of the game into the half.
After a quick 5-0 start, Butler let VCU turn up the defensive pressure and quickly retake the lead behind, what else, turnovers and three point shooting. But as the half wore on, Butler began to impose their defensive will, limiting what VCU does best, penetrating and kicking out for easy threes. After beginning the game four of eight from three, VCU ATTEMPTED only two more threes total since the roughly ten minute mark.
As they often doo, Butler has played ugly, but still find themselves on the right side of the scoreboard. Butler has shot just 34 perent from the floor, but VCU has shot only 40 percent, and every look is contested and under duress for the Rams.
Jamie Skeen (12 points) and Bradford Burgess (nine points) have led VCU, while Butler's stars Shelvin Mack and Mattt Howard have matched their Rams counterparts with 13 and nine points, respectively.
In what has been every bit the tough and physical game many expected, the Butler Bulldogs have inched ahead of the VCU Rams and lead 25-24 at the under four minute timeout in the first of the 2011 Final Four matchups in Houston.
Butler has outrebounded the Rams by six already eight already, but the constatnt pressure of VCU has forced five Bulldog turnovers and held Butler to just 33 percent shooting from the field.
Jamie Skeen has been the star for VCU so far, scoring 10 points on four of six shooting, chipping in two rebounds and two assist. Bradford Burgess has scored nine points on three made trifectas and also added five boards.
Shelvin Mack started the game hot and continues to lead Butler, scoring 11 points on four of five shooting from the floor. Despite the team advantage on the board, big man Matt Howard has been held in check with just four points and four rebounds.
In the mid-major portion of the talent competition known as the 2011 NCAA Final Four, the Virginia Commonwealth Rams lead the Butler Bulldogs 15-13 at the under 12 minute timeout. Butler got off to a fast start, leading 5-0 with Shelvin Mack scoring all the points for the Bulldogs. VCU looked tight early, starting the game 0 for 4 from the floor, but as they have done all tournament long, Shaka Smart's team quickly regrouped, maintained the defensive pressure and shook off the early shooting woes the only way they know how, making three straight trifectas to take a 9-5 lead.
Bradford Burgess has once again led the way for VCU from behind the arc, making three triples while the Rams as a team are four of nine from downtown.
VCU's frenetic defensive pressure has already forced three Butler turnovers and several missed shots in the lane. VCU seems to have the Bulldogs playing at their pace, something Brad Stevens and his staff will surely rectify.
The Virginia Commonwealth Rams are hoping to "Shaka" the world again when they take on Brad Stevens' Butler Bulldogs tonight at 6:09pm.
The Rams walk into this game as slight underdogs to Butler, as they are the lower seed, had to play more games, and lack the Final Four experience (albeit slightly) that the Bulldogs have. Brad Stevens seems to have his team clicking on all cylinders right now and as a result, they have gone toe to toe with every opponent they have faced (despite a talent gap), and came out victorious.
Not that VCU doesn't have grounds to hold their chest high either, as they waltzed through the tournament defeating USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas to get to this point. Not bad for a "measly" CAA team.
Both teams come in with a great amount of confidence in their team's ability, and as it has been throughout this tournament, it will be all about execution.
The Rams bread and butter during this tournament has been their three point shot, as they have shot 45% from beyond the arc in their five games. That percentage would have led the nation if they held that percentage the entire season. The Rams also have Jamie Skeen and Bradford Burgess, who have proven to be forces inside the paint. Although they would like to win with the three ball, they know they have players inside to help them if their outside game isn't coming along.
VCU knows that Butler's two best players are Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack. They will need to do their best to shut down these two, as they have done major damage in this tournament, with Howard coming up huge late in games and Mack playing at a level that might make his the best point guard left in the tournament.
If they can execute their game plan and do with what got them there (three pointers, good defense), the Rams have a chance to stun the college basketball world once again and advance to the championship game.
Prediction: It wouldn't be surprising to see Butler come out and do it's best to take away VCU's outside shot. They will likely extend the defense to the perimeter, forcing the Rams to go inside to their bigs, where Butler has to believe that they have the advantage, with Matt Howard being such a force on the glass. If they do that, then it will be up to Joey Rodriguez to stay patient and find the open man inside, instead of forcing someone to take an outside shot. If Rodriguez can take what's given to him (players open in the paint), VCU can force Butler to help inside, setting up the Rams to set up better three point opportunities.
The VCU Basketball team is no stranger to being the underdog. Even though VCU has defeated all but one team they've faced in the 2011 NCAA Tournament by 10 points or more (yes, including the Kansas Jayhawks), they still aren't receiving much respect from oddsmakers.
Today's betting lines have the Butler Bulldogs favored to beat VCU by three points on Bodog, or by 2.5 points on 5Dimes.com. The over-under total for the game has been set at 134 points on both betting sites.
On the other half of the Final Four bracket, the Kentucky Wildcats are favored to beat the Connecticut Huskies by two points on Bodog and 2.5 points on 5Dimes.com. The oddsmakers clearly expect this game to be more high scoring, as the total has been set at 140.5 on 5Dimes.com and 140 on Bodog.
If you've been betting on the Rams, you're probably pretty rich right now. Will you get richer tonight? We'll find out starting at 6:09 PM.
In today's match up versus the Butler Bulldogs, coach Shaka Smart knows he is going to have his hands full, despite his team knocking off some of the best teams in the tournament so far.
Smart will be countered by Brad Stevens, another young coach who has already lead his team to the national championship game last year. Stevens' Bulldogs have been all about one thing in this tournament so far: execution.
Yes, the Bulldogs do have two stars in point guard Shelvin Mack and forward Matt Howard, but they also have role players like Andrew Smith, Ronald Nored and Khyle Marshall, among others. They all do a great job of stepping in and simply doing their jobs and not doing more than coach Stevens is asking them to do.
With the role players doing their job on both ends of the floor when needed, it paves the way for Mack and Howard to deliver in the most critical of situations.
Howard has scored the game winning points in each of Butler's first two tournament wins: a buzzer beater lay up against ODU, and two huge free throws against Pittsburgh near the end of regulation.
Mack has been probably the best point guard in this tournament. He has averaged 21 points a game the four tournament games and was named the Southeast regions most outstanding player. He has shown at times that he can be the best player on the court during any given stretch of a game with his ability to score and get his teammates involved. It will certainly be an interesting match up between he and VCU point guard Joey Rodriguez.
VCU knows that if they are to beat Butler, they will have to beat them at their own game and out execute them on both ends of the floor. Butler will do everything they can on defense to take away the outside shot, VCU's bread and butter, and Rodriguez and company will have to either feed forward Jamie Skeen inside or do a great job of penetrating and then kicking back out to one of their shooters.
If they can do that, in addition to locking down Mack and Howard, VCU could make history once again.
The 2011 NCAA Basketball season will draw to a close this weekend. Only four teams remain, and at least two of them are major surprises.
Without a single No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the Final Four for the first time ever, CBS is probably pretty worried about its ratings. But we'll still be watching. Here's the full schedule for tonight's games:
Butler and Kentucky will each enter tonight's games as 2.5 point favorites against their opponents, meaning that both games should be pretty close. That's basically a toss-up.
With the No. 8 Bulldogs facing the No. 11 Rams in the early game, we're guaranteed to have one high seed in the championship game, which will take place on Monday night on CBS.
VCU's journey in the 2011 NCAA Tournament has been memorable, historic and surprising, but it's also not over yet. The Rams look to make history and be the lowest NCAA Tournament seed ever to make the NCAA title game when they take on No. 8 seed Butler in the first game of the 2011 Final Four.
The game will take place at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, and will begin at 6:09 p.m. on CBS. Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg and Steve Kerr will announce the game.
While VCU has gone on a memorable run, Butler has shocked everyone too to get to this point. The Bulldogs have defeated four very good teams in dramatic fashion, winning three of them in the final seconds or in overtime. Their run began when Matt Howard's layup gave them a two-point win over No. 9 Old Dominion in the second round, then continued with a wild 71-70 upset of No. 1 seed Pittsburgh in the second round. After surviving a late rally to defeat No. 4 seed Wisconsin, Butler punched its ticket to the Final Four be defeating No. 2 seed Florida in overtime.
Either way, a mid-major will be represented in the NCAA title game, going up against one of two traditional powers in UConn and Kentucky. Will it be VCU?
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