March Madness: From Butler to VCU

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - 08:26 AM

"The Butler-VCU match-up in the final four is the highest seeded final four match-up since they started seeding teams back in 1979... This will be a great match-up," writes Tobias J. Moscowitz. 

We're following the NCAA tournament all month with pre-game predictions and post-game analysis from our contributors:

From: Bradley Campbell
Subject: The NCAA Saga Continues...

Before we get to Butler... just gotta say this about Ohio State.

As in: The. Ohio. State. Unstoppable. Or at least that's how they looked the entire season. On the court, the team looked like men among boys. And until last night, the team looked too good to lose. Too powerful. Too consistent. Too manly. Too just everything. Too, too. 

The team had their way like Superman did in Metropolis. And that's why one creature came into my head during half-time at the Kentucky game: Doomsday.

Anyone who so much as sniffed a comic book in the early nineties knows the dude I'm talking about. He's the only supervillain that could match Superman punch for shock wave-inducing punch. The two dueled in a legendary comic book battle— maybe the best, and most gripping comic book battle of all time. It ended when the two combatants struck a death blow at the same time, collapsing to the pavement in front of the Daily Planet.

The headline wrote itself: Goodbye, Superman.

I just drilled myself into the dork corner, but that's honestly what I thought of when I saw Kentucky match Ohio State. John Calipari's team seemed genetically engineered to fight the Buckeyes. They had the oversized body of Josh Harrellson to bang with freshman man-child Jared Sullinger. And bevy of guards to defend the speed and prowess of William Bufford, and keep the shooting accuracy of Jon Diebler in check.

Then there's the teen dream, Brandon Knight. The Kentucky guard is 19 years old. And while he showed his age, struggling at times throughout the game and going 3-10 from the field, he also showed why NBA scouts drool over one important component of his game: confidence. Unbridled confidence. He came-up gigantic with the final, meaningful, shot of the game. It was like a Doomsday uppercut. Right when it left his hand I told my friend, "It's in."

It was. And the mighty Supermen fell. Goodbye, Ohio State.

OK. That's that. More importantly: BUTLER WON!!!?!!!?!!!? BUTLER.WON.

-bc

From: Tobias J. Maskowitz
Subject: The NCAA Saga Continues...

Forget Butler, how about VCU?!! What a story. These guys barely make the tournament and have to play their way in and then proceed to beat (handily, I might add) Purdue and #1 seed Kansas! The Butler-VCU matchup in the final four is the highest seeded final four matchup since they started seeding teams back in 1979. I love Butler (being an Indiana native), but how can you not root for VCU? I certainly never expected another Cinderella like last year, and now we have two of them. This serves me right for making a prediction on any one tournament. Of course, I'm not the only one to miss this. Of the nearly 6 million brackets filled out online at ESPN.com, apparently only two have the correct final four teams. I'm surprised there are two.

I do love that Butler, and their coach Stevens, approach the game analytically and search for the statistically best match-ups and try to exploit them. They are a shining example of how strategy and analytics can help overcome talent. Not that they don't have talent, but it's hard to argue they get the same selection of talent as a Florida or Kentucky. VCU seems to just play tough, hard basketball and their guards have been terrific and given other teams fits.  This will be a great match-up.

This also goes to show you how the men's game has so much more parity than in the past. There are smaller and smaller schools who are able to attract talent and more and more talented kids (from all over the globe) picking up basketball instead of other sports. All this lends itself to having more teams with more talent spread out across many teams. Even during the regular season we saw teams move up and down the rankings and no clear top teams (Ohio State and Kansas were the closest). We also saw that small conference teams like San Diego State have tremendous seasons—not your usual suspects. Incidentally, I think we're seeing the same thing in college football with the rise of Boise State and TCU and other non-traditional power conference teams making runs at the national title. IF ONLY NCAAF WOULD ADOPT A TOURNAMENT!!  Imagine how much fun it would be to see this twice a year.

As for the women's bracket. Other than Gonzaga, there aren't too many surprises, as usual. ll the #1 seeds are there and will probably meet in the final four. The parity in women's hoops is just not yet at the same level as the men's, but they are making strides.

Thanks,

Toby

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