The Final Four schedule 2011 will finish with a No. 3 and No. 8 seed facing off. No one thought the schedule would end with UConn and Butler left in the Final Four — even as soon as three weeks ago. However, in this chaotic March, this kind of unlikely finish has almost become expected by now. Yet Saturday night, something happened that has been rare in the tournament — the higher seeds actually won.
Kentucky was favored over Connecticut in the point spread, while Butler was a slim favorite over VCU. However, the higher seeds prevailed, with Butler pulling away by 70-62 and UConn holding on by 56-55.
It is a rare semifinal doubleheader where a No. 3 and a No. 8 are the two highest seeds. Yet for once, the teams wearing the home jerseys both won, which could dampen hopes for one more surprise on Monday night.
Butler has reached the end of the Final Four for the second straight year, although most still think the schedule will close just like last season — with a Bulldogs loss. Although UConn won’t be as big a favorite as Duke was in 2010, their unprecedented March run, and Kemba Walker in general, gives them the early edge.
In addition, the Huskies played a Bulldogs’ kind of game to survive past Kentucky, as they overcame their own shooting struggles to shut the Wildcats down. For the second straight game, Walker didn’t need to score 25-30 points for them to win, as he just needed 18 points, six rebounds and seven assists to lead the way.
Now that the supporting cast is catching up to Walker’s heroics, Connecticut looks like a safe bet to finish things off. They haven’t lost to a team outside of the Big East all season, and are 13-0 in tournament games. Despite being a No. 3 seed, and a ninth place Big East team, they’ve set themselves up as the last Goliath of the 2011 Big Dance.
This is usually the time when Goliaths finally dominate since no team from a nonpower conference has won it all since UNLV in 1990. Butler came the closest last year, but they fell one shot short. No matter how many Cinderella stories emerge in March, they always give out by April – despite becoming more elaborate than ever.
There has never been a story like Butler’s, as they’ve reached two title games in a row, in increasingly improbable ways. Since their journey has been unprecedented, perhaps it is finally ready to add that one missing piece.
The 2011 Final Four schedule reaches its end on Monday, starting at 9:23 p.m. EDT. Will it close out with a traditional champion, or will chaos reign one final time?
CBS Sports- “UConn holds off Kentucky, advances to title game”
SI.com- “Va. Commonwealth vs Butler – Recap”
Las Vegas Sun- “Las Vegas sports books make Connecticut solid favorite in national championship”
CBS Sports TV Schedule