5 Takes On Semifinal Games
VCU missed an opportunity – I felt that the Rams had a lot of strengths with Jamie Skeen (27 pts) inside against Butler. When they were clicking, they looked like the better team on the floor. Once the Bulldogs had to sit Matt Howard after he picked up his fourth foul, Shaka Smart had to get his squad to pound it inside. Instead, VCU muddled around the perimeter while Shelvin Mack took over.
Butler just wins – With ten wins over the span of 2 NCAA Tournaments, Brad Stevens and company have already matched the accomplishments of Michigan’s Fab Five. It’s hard to give them enough credit for coming out of the Horizon League and reaching the national title game two years in a row. I know this is a down period in college basketball with more even talent distribution, but winning that many tournament games is an incredible achievement.
John Calipari may not sleep for a week – Kentucky shot roughly 34% from the floor against UConn in Saturday’s second game, which can happen against better defensive teams. The one stat that will make the Wildcats sick: 4-12 at the free-throw line. That is deplorably bad. Unlike Calipari’s 2008 Memphis team, this UK squad was actually pretty decent at the stripe all season. One of my lasting images of this game will be Terrence Jones missing the front end of a one-and-one while down by 6 with 2:04 left. That can’t happen at the Final Four.
Kemba Walker is awesome – He was simply the best overall player in the floor in Saturday’s national semifinal. UConn’s point guard put up 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists, but hit crucial shots when he needed to. Every time the Wildcat made a run and tied or took a brief lead, Walker and Jeremy Lamb were there to put the Huskies right back on top.
UConn has its hands full Monday – The Huskies are favored going into the national championship game at Reliant Stadium. I give Butler a very even chance to come away with the hardware. Ronald Nored and Shawn Van Zant are tremendous defensive guards, and they will give Walker and Lamb fits. Mack is playing at an exceptionally high level, and Matt Howard seems to come up with key plays inside. You won’t find a team that plays more together, harder, and commits less mistakes than the Bulldogs.