One team returns to the National Championship after losing a heartbreaker to Duke last year. Not only has this team done what no team has done since Florida (return to consecutive championship games), but they did it the hard way. They beat #9 seed Old Dominion on a buzzer-beater, and followed that by a shocking upset of #1 seed Pittsburgh. It seemed as if everything was falling into place for Butler, as they continued on to the Final Four after beating #4 Wisconsin and #2 Florida. The worst seed that Butler played against in the tournament was #11 in the Final Four against VCU. Their journey wasn't easy, but 34 year old coach Brad Stevens has his team playing gritty basketball, led by Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack. After losing its star player last year (Gordon Hayward), Butler fell off the basketball map during the first half of the season. They lost 9 games this year, with 5 of them coming in the Horizon League; however, Butler rallied to win their conference tournament and earned a pedestrian #8 seed.
On the other hand, UConn has been on an incredible tear. The Huskies also finished the year with 9 losses, making this the Championship game with the most combined losses among the teams (18). UConn's last defeat came on March 5th to Notre Dame, but since then they have won 10 straight games, winning the Big East Tournament during the streak. To make it even more impressive, 7 of those 10 games were against teams that ended the regular season in the Top 25. Where there is a Kemba, there is a way. The Junior guard has taken over this tournament, as he tries to lead his team to the promised land. To put things into perspective, you must look at the Big East Preseason Coaches Poll, where UConn was predicted to finish 10th in its own conference. Now they're playing for the title.
So what am I supposed to do now? Usually at this time I would make my prediction, but honestly I have no idea what's going to happen at 9:23 tonight when the referee tosses the ball up in the air. Absolutely no idea. It will be interesting to see how this game plays out, because just looking at these teams, I would never have thought that they would have been able to win a title, but hey, what do I know? My champion lost in the second round (Kansas State) and I had only 2 of my Elite Eight teams intact.
Just in case you care what I think is going to happen, I'm going to throw a score out there.
UConn 81 - Butler 60 with Kemba Walker (who was robbed of the Player of the Year award) dropping 40.
The bigger question though: With a dog representing each school, who is Michael Vick betting on?