Bulldog's March Madness game could become Cinderella story
Well, it all comes down to this. After a fantastic two weeks of March Madness with wild upsets and a ton of buzzer-beaters, we are left with a final that not many people could have expected. On Monday, the University of Connecticut Huskies, seeded third in their region, will face off against the eighth-seeded Butler Bulldogs, who have upset a ton of teams to make it this far. Butler, who made the finals last year and lost to Duke, become the first team since those same Blue Devils to have made it to the finals two straight years.
When I think about this game, I immediately think about UConn’s best player, point guard Kemba Walker. Walker, considered to be one of the best players in college basketball, is projected to be picked in the top 10 of the NBA draft this coming offseason, and he has shown why this past month. Just a month ago, Walker led the Huskies to a stunning Big East Tournament Championship, winning the toughest basketball conference in all of the NCAA. He averaged over 25 points per game en route to winning five games in five days, beating four top-25-ranked teams in the process. This included an exhilarating step-back jumper with 0.0 seconds on the clock to beat the University of Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals, one that I’m sure all of Pittsburgh will remember for a while. Walker is considered the most clutch player in the league right now, and I’m sure he’ll be unstoppable.
Coming in with the best player on the court, the Huskies immediately have the advantage from a talent standpoint, but this does not mean that Butler will just roll over. There are several reasons why the Bulldogs are at this point. First off, Butler prides itself on its hard-nosed play and tough defense. You will never see a Butler player not giving 100 percent effort on the court, and this leads to offensive rebounds, fast-break points, and other hustle plays. The Bulldogs live off the underdog status, and they will be underdogs once again in this matchup, allowing them to be calm and collected if the game comes down to the final shot.
In addition to this, Butler focuses its offense around two players, forward Matt Howard and guard Shelvin Mack. There are very few players who can take over the game like Walker can, but one of them is Mack. Just yesterday, he showed his game-changing abilities, going off for 24 points on five three-pointers and eight-for-11 shooting. With that type of efficiency, Butler can beat anyone in this tournament, and the Bulldogs will need Mack to come up huge if they want to come out with a win. Howard, on the other hand, is a workmanlike player who dives for loose balls, grabs boards, shoots the three, and works with his excellent post game.
Howard is the captain of consistency, and the Bulldogs always know what they will get out of him. Add all of this to the fact that Butler has been here before, just last year, and this turns out to be a very even matchup.
So, who’s going to win this one and stencil their names in history forever? My guess is the favorite, the Huskies, because I almost always believe that the team with the best player will most likely win the game. Walker is so much better than anyone who will step on the court, and when it comes to crunch time, we all know who is going to get the ball and shoot it. Also, if freshman Jeremy Lamb shows up for UConn, the Huskies are almost unstoppable, as Lamb has shown the ability to go off for 20-plus points in the tournament multiple times. If they can find a way to control these two, they are in the driver’s seat for this game. However, I just can’t see that happening from college players, as they are normally worse at defense and are playing against a top NBA talent. Of course, nothing is to be expected in a tournament like this one, where highly regarded teams have gotten their butts kicked by “weaker” teams, so it is unfair to say Butler has no chance. No one gave the Bulldogs a chance earlier in the season, so why not defy the odds one last time?
Although none of us has a perfect bracket, this is no time to stop watching college basketball. Don’t feel ashamed. Literally zero brackets have everything totally correct on sites like ESPN, Yahoo!, and CBS Sports. You are not alone when you see a ton of red markings on your sheet of paper. This game will be one for the ages, one team led by veteran coach Jim Calhoun, the other led by new coach Brad Stevens. In the NCAA, referees do not tolerate bad sportsmanship, taunting, or other showboating, which just adds to the pleasure of watching college basketball. This will just be a dogfight, pitting the best player in college against a team that has Cinderella written all over it. Let’s hope the game lives up to the hype.