|ESPN.com: Dick Vitale||[Print without images]|
The Final Four is set and for the first time since seeding began in 1979, there are no No. 1 or No. 2 seeds moving on.
It seems fitting since this has been a wacky season. Think about it, we have a No. 3 (Connecticut), No. 4 (Kentucky), No. 8 (Butler) and No. 11 (VCU) going to Houston. VCU and Butler are the Cinderella stories and one of them will play for the national championship, which is just amazing.
Shaka Smart's team has made a tremendous run. Remember, the Rams were 12-6 in the Colonial Athletic Association, good for fourth place in the regular season. This team lost to South Florida, Georgia State and Northeastern. They also lost in the league final to Old Dominion!
|Can Butler's Matt Howard and the rest of the Bulldogs keep winning?|
But the Rams have played a different brand of basketball than their regular-season results indicate. They have beaten five teams from major conferences -- USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas. VCU did not have 12 trifectas in any game during the regular season; they have done that three times now in the Big Dance.
In fact, VCU made 30 more three-pointers (53-23) in five tournament games so far. This run is even better than George Mason's run in 2006!
Butler has won its share of Pepto Bismol games in the Big Dance. Four wins by a total of 13 points! Brad Stevens and company simply keep their composure. It is amazing to see the Bulldogs in back-to-back Final Fours.
This Butler squad started the season 4-4, and was 14-9 (6-5 in the Horizon League) through February 3rd. Now they have rolled to 13 straight victories. Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard form a great 1-2 punch and now it is back to the Final Four.
Connecticut has been tremendous in tournament play this year. It started with three wins in Maui -- over a very good Wichita State team, Michigan State and Kentucky. Then the performance in New York, winning five games in five days in the Big East tournament, including four against ranked teams. Some questioned if fatigue would be a factor, but Kemba Walker and company have been on fire.
Then there is Kentucky. There were people questioning the Wildcats when they struggled on the road in SEC play. Is anyone talking about losses at Georgia, Arkansas or Mississippi now? John Calipari said he was only concerned about doing well in the NCAA tournament.
Mission accomplished, baby!
Calipari is the second coach to take three different schools to the Final Four, doing it at Massachusetts, Memphis and now with big blue. The only other coach to do that was his in-state rival, current Louisville coach Rick Pitino.
There will be excitement galore in Houston. No top seeds, but four very competitive basketball teams that earned their way to the Final Four.