The NCAA basketball championship game tonight promises to be a dogfight in every sense of the word, as the Bulldogs of Butler take on the Huskies of Connecticut.
And while the game (CBS, 9:23 pm ET) is shaping up to be a dandy, there are many subplots that make the matchup even more intriguing. Here are a few:
Much like last year’s finale, Butler of the little-known Horizon League will take on another basketball powerhouse with the hopes of sneaking into the very exclusive club of basketball’s elite. Last year it was Duke of the ACC who ended the party; tonight it will be a Big East team that already has two national titles under its belt.
Butler Coach Brad Stevens is everything that is right about the game. Only 34, he is wise beyond his years and constantly preaches to his players about representing themselves and their school with class. UConn Coach Jim Calhoun, who is 30-plus years older than Stevens, is currently being investigated by the NCAA for a scandal involving a former player.
And while tonight’s game certainly has a David vs. Goliath feel to it (no team outside a power conference has won the championship since UNLV in 1990), it would not be considered an upset by many. Not when the Bulldogs have already knocked off a #1 seed (Pittsburgh), a #2 seed (Florida), a #4 seed (Wisconsin) and a fellow Cinderella darling in VCU.
Stevens is a master at taking away an opponent’s strengths, and tonight his mission is finding a way to contain Huskie guard Kemba Walker. If Butler can limit the future NBA player, it will put much more pressure on his teammates to pick up the slack (especially Jeremy Lamb, Alex Oriahki and Shabazz Napier).
Calhoun, on the other hand, will focus his attention on harrassing do-everything guard Shelvin Mack and versatile big man Matt Howard. This duo gets good supporting help from Shawn Vanzant, Khyle Marshall and Andrew Smith, but Butler will need big games from Mack and Howard if the Bulldogs are going to cut down the nets later tonight.
It’s kind of sad to the see the college basketball season come to an end, but I can’t imagine a better matchup with so many storylines. Enjoy!