NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game
I picked Butler and UConn to advance to the final, and I expected to be picking Butler to win it all tonight. But the semifinal-game performances have given me pause.
When Matt Howard picked up his fourth foul with 9:21 left in the second half of Butler’s win over VCU, the Bulldogs were up by five points and immediately went into lead-management mode. Defensively, VCU was able to key on Sheldon Mack and no one really stepped up for Butler (it looked as if coach Brad Stevens expected Shawn Vanzant to fill the breach, with mixed results). Had VCU pounded the ball into Jamie Skeen (who also dominated the defensive glass in Howard’s absence) rather than tossing up off-target three-pointers, the Rams might have pulled that game out. Butler is tough (as Clark Kellogg must have said ten times during the semifinal broadcast), but without Howard that toughness looked more mental than physical.
Husky center Charles Okwandu has four inches and 25 pounds on the 6′ 8″, 230-pound Howard. I smell foul trouble for Howard early in the second half. Butler will try to protect him by keeping him on the offensive perimeter, but UConn center/forward Alex Oriakhi (who is 6′ 9″, 240) is quick enough to mark him out there.
Plus, how can I go against fellow Bronxite Kemba Walker?
I’ll take UConn by five.