Four underrated storylines at the Final Four

April, 1, 2011
4/01/11
8:54
PM ET
HOUSTON -- It's hard to get lonely in Reliant Stadium.

Not only are there fans, players and support staff milling around the catwalks and catacombs of this out-sized monument to football and money. (Texas is awesome, by the way.) At any given moment, there are also several hundred credentialed media members furiously clicking and clacking at smartphones and keyboards. You're never alone.

Neither is a storyline. Anytime you have this many writers in one place -- not to mention the benefits of the Internet -- it's tough to leave stones unturned. In other words, it's pretty tough to call any storyline "underrated." In 2011, at this Final Four, pretty much any storyline there is to report has been reported in some way, shape or form.

With that caveat aside, here's a look at a few interesting storylines that might be slightly less emphasized than they should be. In no particular order:

Connecticut Huskies: Jeremy Lamb has become a star. There's no getting around it: This is Kemba Walker's team. In many ways, from Maui to Manhattan to Anaheim to Houston, this has been his season. But UConn's presence in the Final Four has just as much to do with Lamb's emergence as a bona-fide star in his own right. The UConn forward has gone from a lanky, raw freshman to a versatile, comprehensive scorer. He's made 11 of his 15 3-pointers in UConn's four NCAA tournament wins, and he's complemented that outside attack with an array of drives, pull-ups and pretty mid-range floaters. Can Lamb keep this up? If he does, he makes UConn's Walker-led attack even more dangerous, and that's bad news for the other three members of this unlikely Final Four.

Kentucky Wildcats: Hey, what about Terrence Jones? On the way to its first Final Four appearance since 1998, Kentucky has gotten huge contributions from -- and worthy accolades for -- Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb, Darius Miller, DeAndre Liggins and (especially) forward Josh Harrellson, whose metamorphosis from little-used veteran to Jared Sullinger-stopping force has been startling to behold. But there's been one Kentucky player we haven't heard much about in the past few days. Strangely enough, that player -- forward Jones -- is also Kentucky's most talented. It's easy to forget that for much of the season, Jones wasn't just Kentucky's best player, he was also a national player of the year candidate, in the running with Sullinger and Duke's Kyrie Irving for title of top freshman in college hoops, and a surefire lottery pick in the 2011 NBA draft. Much of that is still true, but there's no denying Jones has ceded much of the spotlight to Knight, Harrellson and the rest of Kentucky's impressive attack. Thing is, Jones' talent hasn't gone anywhere. He's still a matchup problem for any opponent. And he could still have a major impact on his team's national title chances Saturday and Monday.

Butler Bulldogs: In the shadow of the Rams. There's been a rush to anoint the Bulldogs as a favorite this week. After all, Butler's the consistently successful program going to its second-straight Final Four; its opponent, VCU, is the team making the once-in-a-lifetime run from the First Four to the Final Four. Compared to the Rams, Butler's a power. And apparently, the Final Four has room for only one Cinderella.

But make no mistake: Butler's a Cinderella, too. If VCU hadn't made its altogether insane run (more on that below), you'd already be tired of hearing about this unlikely Bulldog team's second-straight trip to the Final Four. Butler may have cachet, but the Bulldogs are still a resources-bereft, mid-major with a tiny enrollment of 4,200. Given the inherent disadvantages the school faces, the fact that it made one Final Four is crazy. That it's back for a second year is almost beyond comprehension. We're not talking about this enough.

Virginia Commonwealth Rams: Sorry, but there's no way to overrate, or overwrite, what VCU has done. Are you tired of hearing about how unlikely VCU's run was? Me too. Does it matter? No. This is the most implausible, unexpected run to the Final Four in the history of college basketball. And what if VCU manages to pull this off? I'll tell you what: Their story will stand next to the "Miracle On Ice" as one of the greatest underdog tales in the history of sports.

There's no possible way to underrate what VCU has done. We shouldn't downplay it thanks to oversaturation. No matter how many times you hear about it -- no matter how much the repetition annoys you -- this thing is still insanely crazy. Enjoy Saturday's action accordingly.

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