Monday, April 4, 2011

Madness for the Masses

Arguably the most exhilarating time in sports, March Madness rarely disappoints, and this year proved to be no exception. Multiple Cinderellas were in full effect as 8-seed, Butler, and 11-seed, VCU, defied history, advancing to the Final Four. This was the lowest seeded matchup in the history of the storied tournament. On the other side of the bracket, an overachieving team from Kentucky, the winningest program in collegiate basketball, hit their stride during the SEC tournament and carried their momentum to the Final Four, knocking off overall top-seeded Ohio State and 2-seed UNC, only to lose in the Final Four to the Big East champion, UCONN, led by electrifying combo guard, Kemba Walker.

After all the Madness that produced favorites being mowed down, a slew of buzzer-beaters, and overflowing levels of emotion, a national champion will be crowned tonight at 9 p.m. EST as the Butler Bulldogs face the UCONN Huskies.

Butler, reaching its second national championship in as many years, has displayed an obvious hunger after nearly slaying the proverbial giant in Duke last year. Butler, also, won their conference tournament, which sports reporters estimated would be the Bulldogs only means of receiving a bid for the NCAA tournament. Butler has made their bid count, led by senior, Matt Howard and junior, Shelvin Mack. Mack, a crafty scoring guard, has raised his points per game scoring average from 16 during the season to an astounding 21.6 during the tournament. The Bulldogs’ attack balances itself with the post presence of Howard, who boasts a16 points per game average, himself, while controlling the boards for the 8-seed.

Conversely, its veteran coaching in Jim Calhoun and silky smooth play of Kemba Walker lead the UCONN onslaught. Walker burst onto the scene as a National Player of the Year candidate with his vastly impressive Maui Invitational performance, which yielded a near record setting in total points for the tournament. Walker was a single point shy of registering four straight 30-point games (31, 32, 42, 29) in the tournament en route to UCONN claiming the crown for the annual kickoff to the college basketball season.

Though its season began on a positive note, UCONN experienced highs and lows during their regular season before winning the Big East tournament, arguably (though, not so much) the premier conference in college basketball.

So here we are. One game for the title. While judging by experience, it would tell you Butler has the edge as the school returns to its second straight national championship, however, perhaps talent would tell you to lean towards UCONN.

Just GQ’s X-factor for UCONN: The OTHER Huskies. Plain and simple. The performances of Jeremy Lamb, Alex Oriakhi, and Shabazz Napier are pivotal to the amount of attention Kemba Walker will receive. If they can make Butler pay for doubling Walker, then UCONN will, essentially, become indefensible.

Just GQ’s X-factor for Butler: Rebounding. Butler’s often deep shot selection renders a number of long rebounds up for grabs. If Butler can contend with the Huskies’ big bodies on the boards and produce second chance points, the Bulldogs significantly raise their chances of hoisting the Wooden NCAA National Championship trophy at the end of the night.

The Just GQ Pick?: UCONN. I have to roll with the Big East on this one. I think UCONN just has too much fire power for the Bulldogs. UCONN wins 70-65.

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