The Butler Bulldogs and Matt Howard are back in the National Title game for the second year in a row. (Photo by Eric Gay, AP)
It's the game everyone was looking to get to last fall, when football was in full swing, and basketball practice started. Now we are there, with one game in Houston to determine our National Champion.
Butler (28-9) is here again, looking for one more basket than last year, when the title eluded them, going instead to Duke. The Bulldogs didn't look like they were headed anywhere back in early February, after a 2 point loss to Youngstown St., which came on the heels of back to back overtime losses, and another close defeat that had them on a 1-4 skid. Since then though, Butler has run off 14 straight wins, including 10 by single digit margins.
Connecticut (31-9) was in the Final Four 2 years ago, and won their last National Title in 2004. But after the Huskies went 9-9 in the Big East, tied for 9th. thru 11th., they didn't look like a good bet, even though they are unbeaten against non-Big East teams. But the UConn won 5 games in 5 days to win the Big East Tournament, and claim the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Five more wins, including one over another Big East opponent, Cincinnati, has them in in the Finals.
So which dog do you like in this fight? The Pac-10 has no dog in the fight, and no 'Cats either, for that matter, but the Huskies and Bulldogs represent a clear choice, between one of the biggest of BCS/Power conference powers (though UConn was once a mid-major as anyone), and the best mid-major program around. Both have great guards, in Butler's Shelvin Mack, and Connecticut's Kemba Walker. The Huskies have depth, and one of the all-time veteran successful coaches in Jim Calhoun. The Bulldogs have a folk hero in Matt Howard, and one of the brightest young coaches in the business in Brad Stevens.
Either way, you can't go wrong in this one.
Jump in with your observations on this improbable match up, and the season that has been a long series of improbable surprises.