National Championship Free Pick & Preview: Butler vs. Connecticut

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And then there were two… The Butler Bulldogs and the Connecticut Huskies are the only two teams that are left standing here in the NCAA Tournament, and after 66 previous games and eliminations, only one team can be left standing at the end of the day. On Monday, the 2011 National Championship will be award, and we here at Cappers Info have all of our March Madness final picks available for the big game.

Matchup: #3 Connecticut Huskies vs. #8 Butler Bulldogs
Date: Monday, April 4th, 9:20 ET
Location: Final Four, Houston, TX
NCAA Basketball Odds: Connecticut -3.5
Over/Under 129.5

The road to the Final Four has been long and arduous for both the Huskies and the Bulldogs. Butler needed to survive a pair of de facto road games against the Cleveland State Vikings and Wisconsin Milwaukee Panthers, both of which could have easily been NCAA Tournament teams this season. After that, they eliminated the Old Dominion Monarchs, Pittsburgh Panthers, Wisconsin Badgers, Florida Gators, and VCU Rams to reach the finale. Connecticut was never really in serious doubt about making the NCAA Tournament, but it definitely could have been in a lot worse spot in terms of its seeding had it not gone on that great run in the Big East Tournament. Save the win against the DePaul Blue Demons in Round 1 at Madison Square Garden, the Huskies have beaten nine straight NCAA Tournament teams. Five of these games, they were underdogs, and they have shined through with flying colors in all of them. The Bucknell Bison, Cincinnati Bearcats, San Diego State Aztecs, Arizona Wildcats, and Kentucky Wildcats have all fallen to the mighty Huskies in this tournament.

Connecticut Huskies Notes: It’s getting pretty clear that Head Coach Jim Calhoun is making his bench awfully short in this one. There are only six players that played more than nine minutes in the 56-55 escape from the Wildcats on Saturday, and the big time stats were once again put up by the big time players. Kemba Walker led the way with a very complete effort, as he scored 18 points to lead all scorers on the night. He also had seven assists and six boards. Jeremy Lamb continued his shot scoring streak with 12 points, marking his 10th straight game with at least 11 points after averaging below double digits in scoring per game coming in. Alex Oriakhi had eight points and 10 crucial boards, while Roscoe Smith stepped up and had six points and eight rebounds. The team did shoot 46.9 percent, but Calhoun cannot be happy that his team allowed 13 more shots than it took. The good news though, was that it did have 16 assists on 23 made baskets, a sign that the ball was really moving around for UConn.

Butler Bulldogs Notes: It’s truly amazing that Butler is back in this one, and perhaps the Bulldogs are just a tad fortunate to be in this spot. VCU ended up going cold down the stretch, which allowed them to come up with this 70-62 win to advance to the National Championship Game. Give the perimeter players a lot of credit, as holding VCU to just 8-of-22 from downtown was its worst percentage of the tournament. Matt Howard and company really didn’t do a great job keeping Jamie Skeen off of the scoreboard, but he the scrapper in the middle had himself a heck of a game. He only shot 3-of-10 from the floor, including 0-for-5 from downtown, but he also had 11 free throws made on 12 attempts to total 17 points with eight boards. Shelvin Mack knocked down three triples, but he continued his struggles from the line, going just 3-of-6 in very uncharacteristic form. Mack scored 24 points and had six rebounds. The impressive part of this game for the Bulldogs was the fact that they absolutely dominated the glass, proving that they can really play like a big conference team. The Dogs had 46 total boards, 15 of which were on the offensive glass. They had a +16 margin on the boards when the day was said and done.

The Final Word: This is the final word for the whole season, and with as screwy as this entire season has been, why shouldn’t we expect to see the upset once again. Butler has proven that it is good enough to beat virtually every big time school that it has run across this season, and it has some big time unfinished business to contend with. The Bulldogs will get the job done this year, and Head Coach Brad Stevens and company will arguably become the least likely champion in the history of the sport.

March Madness Free Pick: Butler Bulldogs +3.5

Lou Palumbo is the founder and part owner of the Sports Handicapping Community. He's been writing and posting free picks and sports handicapping strategies on the Cappersinfo forums and website for 15 years now. He enjoys handicapping just as much as he did from the very first day he built the original Cappersinfo website.

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