Kentucky, UConn, Butler, and VCU all in the Final Four. It almost sounds too ridiculous to be true.
VCU is the epitome of the underdog. Nobody wanted them in the tournament. They were told that they didn’t deserve to be there and, if this year’s tournament was a field of sixty-four teams instead of the new sixty-eight they wouldn’t have been there. Entering tournament play VCU was 23-11 on the season and 12-6 in conference play. The Rams play in the Colonial Athletic conference which is considered a weak conference. With good reason too as the Colonial Athletic features such teams as Northeastern, North Carolina Wilmington, and my favorite the University of William and Mary. We thought we would get a crappy one round and done team and what we got was a team with an enormous chip on its shoulder. The more they’re told they will fail the more they win. Cinderella never looked so good.
Butler was last year’s Cinderella team. They made it to the championship game and almost beat the Duke Blue Devils on a last second shot by Gordon Heyward. It was an unbelievable run that they had last year. So unbelievable in fact that no one really expected them to be back again. Butler head coach Brad Stevens is steady and level-headed. He has led this Butler team on yet another unbelievable run. Buzzer beaters everywhere. Three of Butler’s last four victories have been come-from-behind victories. Butler is just one of those teams that is so based on the fundamentals that is actually doesn’t matter whether or not they have the lead going into the second half of games or not. Led by upperclassmen Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard, no matter what the score coming down the stretch, the Bulldogs always have a shot at winning.
When the University of Connecticut is mentioned and one name comes mind. Kemba Walker. This is a special ball player. You can tell by looking at him that Kemba is extremely good at creating shots. He has a insane crossover that literally moves defenders and figuratively breaks ankles (see the end of the Big East tournament championship game vs. Pittsburgh). The Huskies are a team that adapts to almost any style of play. They can run and gun or play from a half court set. I would be remiss if I didn’t to mention Jeremy Lamb. This guy has shown up huge for the tournament. Lamb can shoot the lights out as he averages 64% shooting from the field in NCAA tournament play. UConn is simply dangerous.
Last but certainly not least is Kentucky. The highest ranked team left in the tournament hasn’t had nearly as many doubters coming in but, they certainly didn’t get any of the credit they deserved. They were after all the last of the #4 seeds. Kentucky however is no underdog but they did overcome some adversity. The got pushed around and, for whole stretches of the game, outplayed by the Ivy League champion Princeton Tigers. They were able to get past Princeton on a buzzer-beater and they haven’t looked back since defeating overall #1 seed Ohio St. along the way. Definitely the Goliath of the Final Four teams, Kentucky will look to shoot the lights out. That’s how they play and, quite frankly, they don’t need to change a thing.
The best, if not the most consistent teams are in the Final Four for better or for worse. It may not have been flashy or trendy but they earned it. This is why the games are played.