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The Butler Bulldogs and the VCU Rams have totally defied logic in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. They’re both on the verge of reaching the finale of the dance, and they both have absolutely captured the hearts of all of the fans of the little guys of college basketball across the country. Check out our March Madness picks for this national semifinal in Houston!
Matchup: #11 VCU Rams vs. #8 Butler Bulldogs
Date: Saturday, April 2nd, 6:10 ET
Location: Final Four, Houston, TX
NCAA Basketball Odds: Butler -2.5
The important thing that we have to make mention of in this one is just how unlikely of a story it is for either of these teams to be here. Both of these teams come from conferences that have only had one other Final Four team in their history. Butler is following in its own footsteps from last season when it was the national runner up, while VCU is following the path set by the George Mason Patriots in 2006. No 11 seed has ever been in the finale of this tournament, while only two, including that George Mason team, have ever been here before. The only other No. 8 seed to be here in the Final Four before was the Villanova Wildcats, and they went on to win the 1985 National Championship.
VCU Rams Notes: Head Coach Shaka Smart has made himself a whole heck of a lot of money in this tournament. The Rams are going to try to become the first, and likely the only team for quite some time to win seven games in this tournament. They literally came out of a grave that was supposedly sealed way back in the beginning of March when they were beaten in the CAA Final against the Old Dominion Monarchs. The Selection Committee took a lot of flak for putting this team in the field, and now look! Not only did VCU come through the play in game to arguably be the most improbable Final Four team ever, but it did so really without breaking much of a sweat. Sure, that close call against the Florida State Seminoles in the Sweet 16 could’ve gone either way, but aside from that, the Rams absolutely dumped the USC Trojans, Georgetown Hoyas, Purdue Boilermakers, and Kansas Jayhawks, all by double digits. The team has scored at least 71 points in four straight games against some rock solid defensive teams thanks to some ridiculous three point shooting, the likes of which we have never seen before. The Rams weren’t that great of a three point shooting team as it was coming into the dance, but all of a sudden, they are nearly shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc!
Butler Bulldogs Notes: The path to get here for Butler has been a long and winding one, as this team has legitimately taken the best shot from a number of different fantastic teams and has withstood them all. Three of the four wins in the dance to date came down to the wire, and the man that has been doing most of the heroics has been Matt Howard. Howard, usually a man that is in foul trouble all the time, has come back with vengeance here this March. He has only sat out a total of 17 minutes in four games in this dance, and he has put up an average of 16.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. Shelvin Mack, another hero from last year’s Final Four run had a huge game against the Florida Gators, putting up 27 points, including scoring some big time baskets down the stretch in regulation and in OT. He also had 30, his second highest tally on the season, against one of the best defenses in the country in the Pittsburgh Panthers. Butler currently has a 13 game winning streak going, the longest such mark in the nation, and it has covered six straight games.
The Final Word: Butler has been here and done this before, but there is just a mojo surrounding the way that the Rams are playing right now that is too tough to top. This is the team that is winning the National Championship. It might come down to the wire, but when push comes to shove, just as it did against FSU a week ago, VCU will figure out how to come up with the big basket to win the game at the death.
March Madness Free Pick: VCU Rams +2.5