Opinion: Does that say VCU vs. Butler?

VCU's star guard Joey Rodriguez has carried his team to five straight victories in the NCAA Tournament, setting the stage for an unlikely Final Four matchup against the Butler Bulldogs. (John Powell)

Never in the history of college basketball has there been a Final Four without a one or a two seed. Until now. There have been some wild, wacky NCAA Tournaments over the years, but never anything quite like this.

And did I mention I had none of the Final Four teams right? But I guess I should look on the bright side, I did have one Elite Eight team right.

Essentially all of this years’ commotion came from the right-hand portion of the bracket. In the round of 16, the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks were joined by 12th-seeded Richmond, 11th-seeded VCU and 10th-seeded Florida State in the Southwest region. VCU and Kansas prevailed to the Elite Eight.

Then, much to my surprise, and really to the surprise of the entire nation, VCU won… again.

The Rams just barely snuck their way into the dance and played in the First Four round against USC. They took down the Trojans out of the Pac-10, setting the stage for a matchup against Georgetown out of the Big East for the traditional first round. The Rams won with ease. Next they faced Purdue out of the Big 10, and once again made it look easy.

Florida State of the ACC was next in line, a 10-seed not expected to make much noise, but still a member of a “power conference.” VCU came out on top for the fourth straight game.

They then miraculously pushed their winning streak to five games when they eliminated the heavily-favored Jayhawks out of the Big 12, punching their ticket to the Final Four in Houston.

I did not expect the Rams to beat Georgetown, I did not expect them to beat Purdue or Florida State. I definitely did not expect them to beat Kansas. But they did, and made it look easy.

Clearly, college basketball is not all about the “power conferences.”

This is bittersweet for me and for George Mason University as a whole. It was nice being the only school from the CAA to ever reach the Final Four, which is something I never expected to happen again, especially not so soon. It was also nice getting to hear “who will be this year’s George Mason.” I hope I never have to hear “who is this year’s VCU.”

As Mason’s top rival in terms of basketball and the team that snapped the 16-game winning streak a couple weeks ago, it is difficult to root for the Rams. However, it is great that they are able to represent the CAA in this manner. Two Final Four appearances for the CAA in five years–that is a rare and impressive accomplishment. Plus, there is the fact that this will bring more money and attention to the conference going forward.

But that’s enough about VCU.

Let me check my bracket to see who they play next–does that say Butler? Wait a minute, I must have last year’s bracket, right? Wrong.

Yes, it is the eighth-seeded Butler Bulldogs out of the Southeast Region taking on those pesky Rams from Richmond.  Butler had to go through ODU, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin and Florida. Not an easy road by any means.

Both Butler and VCU have been outstanding. The Rams have dominated opponents with phenomenal showings from Joey Rodriguez and Jamie Skeen.

Butler has just been sneaking by opponents, but has all the experience with guys like Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard, who were major contributors on last years’ Final Four squad. And Mack and has been almost unstoppable lately.

VCU fits the bill of a “Cinderella” to a tee. They were the first team to ever win five games to reach the Final Four and were heavily criticized for even making the tournament field.

Butler, on the other hand, is no Cinderella story. This is their second straight Final Four appearance. The first team in history to do that without being a one or two seed either year. They have reached the Sweet Sixteen four times in the past decade.

They are no Cinderella, they are just good. 

The left-hand portion of the bracket has been far steadier. Perennial powerhouses Kentucky, UNC, UConn and Arizona were the last four standing. The fourth-seeded Kentucky Wildcats and the third-seeded UConn Huskies took care of business and are in the Final Four as well.

One shocking stat, however, is that this is Kentucky’s first Final Four appearance since 1998. It is pretty amazing that they lost John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, both who left after their freshman year to enter the NBA draft, and are better this year.

UConn has been the Kemba Walker show. If you just look at the regular season, he does not deserve to win the national player of the year awards. But if you look at what he has done in the Big East Tournament and the Big Dance, he is unquestionably deserving. He has been simply electrifying and fun to watch.

As a result, the Huskies are 12-0 in tournament play this year, counting the Pre-Season NIT, the Big East Tournament and the NCAA Tournament.

My finals prediction is UConn against the defending national runner-up, Butler. I think Walker is just too good for the Bulldogs to handle. The Huskies will be cutting the nets down in Houston next Monday night.

Just a warning–before you call your “bookie” to place your bets, keep in mind that my bracket is currently in the 10th percentile on ESPN.com. That means that 90 percent of the planet did a better job than me.

Maybe you should call your “bookie” immediately to bet on Kentucky and VCU prevailing to the championship.

Better yet, save your money. There is nothing more unpredictable than college basketball, and that is why I love it.

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