NCAA Championship Game Time

UConn vs Butler tips off at 9pm eastern on CBS to decide the 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion. Be sure to check out our full predictions and preview story.

The game is very much a contrast between the upstart and the traditional power. Butler is a mid major team that came into this conference as an #8 seed, but despite those credentials Cinderella probably isn’t the right word to describe them. Coach Brad Stevens and his team are making their second straight NCAA championship game after losing to Duke last year. They may be from a small school, but this a tournament tested squad. As much as any in the country right now. Stevens talked about the core that has been so successful for Butler.

For me personally, the core of my first team was as important for me in transitioning into coaching as any group we’ve ever had just because we had five 23-year-olds, four fifth-year seniors and one fourth-year senior, and they were nothing but great to a young coach. I think when they left and turned it over to these younger guys, now older guys, they just continued to be great to coach and great to be around. It’s been collective all the way through. We’ve just had unbelievable people and it’s made my job a lot more enjoyable and a lot easier.

Unlike Butler, Connecticut are hardly new to the national scene. They play in the brutal Big East every year, a conference they may well have redeemed with this finals appearance. They’ve been to four final fours and have two national championship banners hanging in their gym. They’ve got as many current NBA players as any other school in the country. They’re old money.

Despite that pedigree though, not a lot of people had UConn pegged as a potential national champion. They’d pulled off a huge feat in winning 5 games in 5 days to take the Big East title and many assumed they’d be out of gas for the tourney… but they kept winning. Alex Oriakhi was asked what point is that they started to believe they could win this whole thing?

I think after we was able to beat Louisville in the Big East championship. I did question our team. I said, Could we really win a national championship? But, you know, I said, We’re hot right now, playing great basketball. I definitely said, Why not? If we keep playing the way we’ve been playing, I don’t see why we couldn’t do it. I guess I was right.

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