NCAA Men’s Tournament – Final Four Preview – VCU vs. Butler
In what has to be the most unlikely of pairings in NCAA Tournament history, the VCU Rams, out of the Colonial Athletic Association will face the Butler Bulldogs, from the Horizon Conference in the first of two Final Four games scheduled for this upcoming Saturday. Tip-off from Reliant Stadium in Houston is set for 6:09 p.m. (ET) and the game will be broadcast on CBS.
VCU’s improbable five-game run through this year’s NCAA Men’s Tournament sounds like something right out of Hollywood, but the reality is this team is just one win away from playing for a national title. The No.11 seed Rams had to get by USC in a play-in game just to earn a spot in the Southwest Region bracket but they started catching everyone’s attention with a 94-76 thrashing of No.3 seed Purdue in the third round as a 9.5-point underdog followed by a thrilling 72-71 OT win over No.10 seed Florida State as a 4.5 point underdog in the Sweet 16. VCU etched its name in the history books this past Sunday with a solid 71-61 upset of No.1 seed Kansas in the Elite Eight as an 11-point underdog.
The Rams have used the three-point shot to perfection during this run with Bradford Burgess going 6-for-7 as part of his game-high 26 points against the Seminoles and Jamie Skeen going 4-for-7 as part of his game-high 26 points against the Jayhawks. They have averaged 43.8 percent from beyond the arc in the five games they have played.
Butler may also seem like a shocker, but it is actually returning to the Final Four for the second year in a row. The No.8 seed Bulldogs needed a last-second tip-in to get by No.9 seed Old Dominion in the second round but they caught everyone’s attention with a 71-70 win over No.1 seed Pittsburgh in the third round as an eight-point underdog. They followed this up with a stunning 61-54 victory over No.4 seed Wisconsin as a 4.5 underdog in the Sweet 16, but saved its best effort for this past Saturday with a 74-71 OT victory over No.2 seed Florida as a four-point underdog in the Southeast Region finals.
Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack played a big role in last season’s run to the national title game, but have stepped things up to an even higher level in this year’s run. Howard had a team-high 20 points in the win over the Badgers, while Mack exploded for 30 points against Pitt and scored a game-high 27 points against the Gators. Butler has done a great job under the boards in its last two games with a 71-61 edge in rebounds.
VCU is 6-1 against the spread in its last seven games and the total has stayed ‘under’ in three of its five games in this tournament. Butler is 7-1 ATS in its last eight games and the total has stayed ‘under’ in seven of its last 10 games overall.
There are a number of stats you can look at for both these teams, but if you could put a number to guts and determination, both these team’s scores would be off the charts.
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