It is the most anticipated basketball game of the season: the NCAA Championship game between Butler and Connecticut. Game time is set at 9:23 ET at the Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas.
This year’s national title game pits talent versus experience. UConn boasts of its talented lineup composed of Kemba Walker with talented freshmen Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier and Roscoe Smith. Butler on the other hand was a shot away from the title last year and is back for its second title game appearance in as many years.
Walker has matured through the season, from just being a trigger-happy scoring guard to a more team-oriented orchestrator. Freshmen Smith, Lamb and Napier have responded well to Walker who has averaged just a shade below eight assists per game.
The coaches can spell a difference with Jim Calhoun the more experienced coach with previous championship titles in 1999 and 2004 with UConn. Butler on the other hand has a young coach in Brad Stevens. The 34-year old Stevens displayed a Zen-like calm leading to the finals. How well he deals with the pressure against the veteran coach Calhoun is yet to be seen. Stevens is expected to employ the same tenacious Bulldogs defense that led Butler to the national title game against the talent-laden Huskies.
The Huskies are riding on a 10-game winning run. What makes it even more amazing is that Connecticut has beaten teams in the Big East. They are battle-tested but may be battle-weary as well when they face Butler.
Leading the Bulldogs are Matt Howard, Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored. Mack and Howard are prolific scorers. Howard provides muscle inside with an average of close to eight rebounds per game. Nored is expected to give Kemba Walker a hard time to get a good look to the basket.
If the Bulldogs are able to impose their will on defense, they have a good shot at the national title. Butler has so far showed poise by winning close games because of their defense. How well they defend against UConn’s Walker, Lamb, Napier and Smith will determine the outcome of the game.