This year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament draws to a close over the next week with the Final Four games on Saturday and the National Championship Game next Monday. Just about everyone’s bracket is in shambles as a No.11 seed faces a No.8 seed on the right side and a No.4 faces a No.3 on the left, which adds up to the highest combination of seeds (26) in the history of the Final Four. In fact, if you tried to sell this story to Hollywood it probably turn it down as being too far-fetched.
Here is a brief look at both matchups along with their current pointspread and total line as provided by Sportsbook.com.
Saturday, April 2
6:05 P.M. (ET)
VCU Rams vs. Butler Bulldogs (-2.5) Over/Under 133.5
VCU was such a longshot that it had to get by USC in a first round play-in game just to have a spot in the Southwest Region bracket as the No.11 seed. The Rams immediately showed they belonged with a 74-56 rout of No.6 seed Georgetown as a 5 ½-point underdog and a 94-76 pummeling of No.3 seed Purdue as a 9 ½-point underdog in rounds two and three. Things got really crazy with a 72-71 OT win over No.10 Florida State in the Sweet 16 as a 4 ½-point underdog and bordered on surreal with a 71-61 upset of No.1 seed Kansas in the Elite Eight as an 11-point underdog.
The Rams have lived and not yet died outside the three-point line during this run; shooting 43.8 percent from three-point range in their five game run. Bradford Burgess torched Florida State for 26 points, going 6-for-7 from beyond the arc and Jamie Skeen hit four key three-pointers against Kansas. The one constant has been the play of point guard Joey Rodriguez, who is dishing out an average of 7.6 assists a game.
Butler may have been a No.8 seed but it has played much the same way it did last season on its way to earning a spot in the title game. After struggling a bit with Old Dominion in the second round, the Bulldogs kicked it into gear with a 71-70 victory over No.1 Pittsburgh in the third round as an eight point underdog and posted a 61-54 win over No.4 seed Wisconsin as a 4 ½-point underdog in the Sweet 16. Saturday’s 74-71 OT win over No.2 seed Florida as a four-point underdog was probably the best effort of them all.
The Bulldogs lost some key components from last year’s team, but the combination of Matt Howard, who is averaging 16.3 points and seven rebounds and Shelvin Mack, who is averaging 21.3 points, has been enough to fill the void.
The sheer guts and determination of both these teams should make this game as instant classic. Take the Bulldogs to capitalize on their experience on the biggest of stages to grind out the win, but stick with VCU and the 2 ½ points.
8:45 P.M. (ET)
Connecticut Huskies vs. Kentucky Wildcats (-2) Over/Under 140.5
You would think that Connecticut’s five game run to the Big East Tournament Championship would have worn this team down heading into the NCAA Tournament, but it actually seemed to help fuel its four game run to the Final Four. The No.3 seed out of the West Region got to this point with relatively easy wins over Bucknell and Cincinnati followed by a 74-67 victory over No.2 San Diego State in the Sweet 16 as a two-point underdog and a 65-63 victory over No.4 seed Arizona as a 3 ½-point favorite in the Elite Eight.
Kemba Walker has been the driving force behind Connecticut’s success this postseason. He scored a game-high 36 points in the win over the Aztecs and a team-high 20 points against the Wildcats. Freshman guard/forward Jeremy Lamb has also stepped his game up with 24 points against San Diego State and 19 against Arizona.
With the three freshmen in the starting lineup, many people thought Kentucky would not be able to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament until next season. The Wildcats almost bowed-out early in 59-57 squeaker over No.15 seed Princeton as a 12 ½-point favorite, but got things going with a 71-63 win over No.5 seed West Virginia as a 3 ½-point favorite followed by a shocking 62-60 victory over No.1 seed Ohio State in the Sweet 16 as a 5 ½ -point underdog. Kentucky earned its ticket to Houston by grinding out a 76-69 win over No.2 seed North Carolina as a 1 ½-point favorite in the Elite Eight.
Brandon Knight has been the star for the Wildcats, hitting a 15-foot game-winning jumper against the Buckeyes and scoring a team-high 22 points against the Tar Heels. DeAndre Liggens and Josh Harrelson have also come up big during this run by combining for 33 points in the win over the Ohio State.
These two teams met in late November this season with the Huskies coming away with an 84-67 win as a 4 ½-point road underdog. This time around things will be much closer, but stick with Connecticut as Walker comes up big once again.
DJ is a freelance writer that concentrates on his true passion in life; the world of sports. He produces a number of articles each week for BangTheBook.com as well as a select group of other websites that specialize in providing the most up-to-date information for the sports gaming industry. His goal is to write insightful articles on a wide variety of sporting topics that can provide an edge to today's sophisticated online player.