My, what a game in store for us in this one! The number of teams from mid major conferences that have been to the Final Four is awfully small as it is, but we have never seen two teams from the non-Big Six conferences squaring off for the right to go to the finale on the first Monday of April before this.
VCU is that team that just keeps beating you up the way that little guys do. The Rams just keep shooting threes, and they aren’t worried about apologizing for missing a ton of them. They have converted on 49 triples already in this tournament, and they have three games with at least a dozen converts from beyond the arc. Needless to say, when you can hit shots like that on a consistent basis, you can sway momentum on your side, and it is that momentum that every team in its path has failed to combat.
The Rams play deceptively fast ball, as they full court press you for the majority of the game and try to get that tempo going. The faster they play, the better they play, and it gives them more chances to knock down three pointers in transition.
Head Coach Shaka Smart has two bona fide stars to rely on in Joey Rodriguez at point guard and Jamie Skeen at center. Skeen, a transfer from Wake Forest, is coming off of the game of his life against the Kansas Jayhawks in which he stood toe to toe with both Marcus and Markieff Morris, arguably the best front court duo in the entire country. Rodriguez doesn’t really score all that much, but he is sneaky in his ways and can knock down long shots as easily as he can set up a teammate for an open look.
However, there’s just something about this Butler team that is stunning to us. The Bulldogs might have lost a lot more games this year than they probably should have, but they play like a Big East team. They’re a lot bigger than you think they are, and they play with a certain grit and tenacity about them. Sure, Butler can knock down some outside shots, but with Matt Howard on the inside, the post is where this team really makes its headway.
This Butler team is on the longest winning streak in America at 13 games, and there is no doubt in our minds that they return to the Final 4 with unfinished business stemming over to last season. The Dogs want back in the title game, and they want to finish what they started last year to bring a title back to Hinkle Fieldhouse. It’s been a nice run for VCU, just as it was for the George Mason Patriots five years ago, but just like with Mason, the Rams will be ousted one step short of the finale.
Prediction: Butler 65 – VCU 60