The basketball season and 2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament bracket has been reduced to three games in Texas. The Road to the Final Four ends in Houston, beginning with the match-up between the No. 11 Southwest seed, the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams, and the No. 8 Southeast seed, the Butler Bulldogs. The winner of that game will take on the victor in the later game between the No. 4 East seed Kentucky Wildcats and the No. 3 seed University of Connecticut (UConn) Huskies. The two sets of teams couldn't be more diametrically opposed in the story of their programs, but the games will place one school against the other in Monday night's 2011 NCAA National Championship Game.
Kentucky vs UConn
The Kentucky Wildcats come into the National Semifinals with a record of 29-8. They have knocked off No. 13 Princeton, No. 5 West Virgina, No. 1 Ohio State, and No. 2 North Carolina in the East part of the NCAA bracket to get to the Final Four. They will go up against a UConn Huskies team holding a record of 30-9. UConn rolled into the Final Four with victories over the No. 14 Bucknell, No. 6 Cincinnati, No. 2 San Diego State, and No. 5 Arizona in the West section of the bracket. The two teams have been the Championship Game before, with Kentucky winning seven of their ten appearances and UConn winning both times they played.
In the head-to-head match-up, Kentucky averages scoring over two points more per game (75.4). Kentucky has a negligible advantage in defensive rebounding, but UConn dominates the offensive boards, pulling in more than two more per game (14) than Kentucky (11.6). UConn is the better free throw shooting team by nearly five percent, shooting 76 percent from the line. However, Kentucky is the better three-point shooting squad.
Professional oddsmakers like Bodog are giving UConn a two-point advantage in the contest.
VCU vs. Butler
The Virginia Commonwealth University Rams, who have a record of 28-11, jump into their side of the National Semifinals with an extra game under team belt, having had to score a win in the eight-team first round of the NCAA Tournament just to compete with the final 68 squads. To get in, they defeated USC. Then they beat No. 6 Georgetown, No. 3 Purdue, No. 10 Florida State, and No. 1 Kansas to represent the Southwest quarter of the bracket. They will contest a team trying to make it to the Championship Game for a second straight season. The Butler Bulldogs enter the game with an overall record of 27-9. They muscled their way into the Final Four from the Southeast with wins over No. 9 Old Dominion, No. 1 Pittsburgh, No. 4 Wisconsin, and No. 2 Florida. Of the two only Butler has ever been to a Championship Game. In fact, VCU's advancement into the Sweet 16 was their first trip ever, which means it has all been uncharted territory for the school since then.
On paper, the two teams match up somewhat evenly, with Butler average less than half a point more per game for the season at just over 72. Butler also has the advantage in the rebounding game on both offense and defense and field goal percentage, although by just minor amounts. VCU has the advantage three-pointers (by one per game) and steals, the quick-handed crew averaging over 8 per game as opposed to less than 6 for Butler.
Professional oddsmakers have Butler as a 3.5-point favorite.
But records and odds aside, as it is often said, matter not in the game at hand.
The winner will play for the National Championship Monday evening, April 4, on CBS Television.