Think back to a few weeks ago when most of Selection Sunday was spent discussing the awful decision by the committee to allow the likes of UAB and VCU into this year’s field of 68. I mean, seriously. Who were these teams?!
Well, it turns out VCU was not who we thought they were, as they’ve officially reached the Final Four after knocking off number one seeded Kansas this afternoon, 71-61.
OK, let’s all be honest here for a second. Coming into this year’s NCAA Tournament, did even the thought of a VCU/Butler matchup in Houston ever cross your mind? We’re not even talking about a realistic possibility. A simple random thought.
Even after looking at the bracket, at no point did I ever say: “Ya know, I like the way the bracket shapes up for VCU and Butler. That should be a great Final Four game.”
But now, that’s exactly what we have. And personally, I absolutely love it. Because after today, there is simply no doubt that VCU deserves to be there.
Except for a few lapses in the second half, the Rams completely controlled the game from start to finish. I said earlier in my predictions that VCU would have to control the tempo early, which would in turn give them the momentum and energy that they needed going into the half. Well they did much more than that, as they went into the break with a 14-point lead, and had the Jayhawks completely flustered.
Kansas seemed to have the advantage on the inside heading into the game, but the play of Jamie Skeen completely changed that as the game progressed. Skeen ended up with 26 points and 10 boards, and while Marcus Morris had 20 and 16, Skeen was the spark plug that the Rams needed to keep their foot on the gas throughout the game.
Of course, there were a few other particular stats that helped VCU as well. They hit 12 threes, which, when they are on, isn’t all that surprising. They got the long ball going early in the game, and that was key as it helped them build the huge lead early. It also helped that Kansas only hit two the entire game, and that as well as FT shooting was what really made the big difference in the outcome of this one.
But again, VCU’s ability to control the tempo meant everything. Especially in terms of forcing bad shots with the tremendous pressure that they bring on defense. They were able to do it in every game up until today’s game, but for some reason, we thought Kansas would be the team that could stop them.
So now an obvious question presents itself: if they were able to do it against all these power conference teams, including a number one seed, why can’t they do it against Butler? Well at this point, I don’t see any reason why VCU can’t do that.
The style is just extremely difficult to prepare for. It’s hard to prepare for a team that has so many weapons outside the three-point arc. If one guy is missing, another guy will step up and make something happen. It’s just really, really hard to defend.
On the defensive end, it’s hard to simulate the type of pressure that they use as well. But given what we’ve seen from Brad Stevens and Butler these last two years, if anybody can do it, they can.
Next Saturday’s matchup may not be a ratings grabber, but there’s no question anymore that these two teams deserve to be in Houston for the right to play for the national championship. We thought Butler could hang for a while in this year’s tournament, however, back to back Final Four runs? No way. And VCU wasn’t even a popular pick to win the play-in game. Like they said, that’s why they don’t play the games on paper.
So for everyone out there saying that a mid-major will play in the title game this year, I’m not sure about that. Because considering what they’ve been able to accomplish, it’s hard to give Butler and VCU that label.
Topics: Butler Bulldogs, Butler Vs. Vcu, College Basketball, College Basketball Analysis, College Hoops, Jamie Skeen, Kansas Jayhawks, March Madness, Marcus Morris, Ncaa Analysis, Ncaa Final Four, Ncaa Mid-majors, Vcu Rams, Vcu To The Final Four