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Archive for Saturday, April 2, 2011

Final Four outcome unpredictable

April 2, 2011

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— Connecticut freshman guard Jeremy Lamb recently was struck with this thought: “Man, I can’t believe we’re in the Final Four.”

He could have easily tossed Kentucky, Butler and Virginia Commonwealth into the mix.

Outside of two or three blindfolded dart throwers, no one believed in this Final Four.

Imagine, three weeks ago, writing out today’s lineup cards for Houston’s Reliant Stadium: Butler vs. VCU in one national semifinal game and Connecticut vs. Kentucky in the nightcap.

That would have required VCU, a very un-Reliant double-digit-seeded team that couldn’t win the Colonial Athletic Association, surviving a “first-round” game in Dayton and then winning four more.

Yeah, right.

And Butler, which lost star Gordon Hayward off last year’s impossible dream team, digging out from a Feb. 3 loss at Youngstown State.

Got any more snake oil?

“I never thought we’d be sitting here,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said on a seat in Houston.

And Connecticut’s Huskies, who finished 9-9 in their league, would suddenly flip their twitch and go on ultra-marathon run through the Big East tournament and, then, the West Regional?

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s court would not connect those dots.

Then there’s Kentucky, which lost five first-round picks to the NBA last year and couldn’t get out of its regional. The Wildcats were simply going to rearrange the coast-to-coasters and win this year’s East?

Put some bluegrass in a pipe and smoke it.

Yet, it all happened, and now here comes the fun part: All the experts who couldn’t predict any of this are going to tell you who’s going to win today ... and why.

Some motor mouths might tell you Butler and VCU is the junior varsity game and UConn-Kentucky is the real title game.

Because that’s what we were taught back in NCAA school: Kentucky and Connecticut have combined for 11 NCAA titles. Coaches Jim Calhoun and John Calipari are the serious, hardened veterans.

Butler’s coach Stevens, because of irritated eyes, has been forced to wear glasses that make him look even younger than 34.

“I have found that I’m a better coach when I can see than when I can’t, so that’s the reason I’m wearing the glasses,” he said.

Shaka Smart, VCU’s 33-year-old coach, could be found at Friday’s practice diving after loose balls as part of a teachable moment.

“It’s a drill we do pretty regularly with our team,” Smart said.

Somewhere, Rick Majerus just fell off his chair.

Bottom line: Figure out this Final Four at your own peril.

Seek out insight, go on ESPN, break down the tape, make a prediction and see how silly you look Sunday.

Do not attempt to extrapolate anything from the regular season and apply it to anything we’ve seen so far.

Connecticut, for instance, defeated Kentucky by 17, in Hawaii, back in November.

What does that mean? Some of the freshmen who played in that game, well, they’re shaving now. Kentucky’s Brandon Knight is four months wiser, but so is Connecticut’s silky-smooth Lamb.

“I don’t really feel like a freshman anymore,” he said.

No one has a clue what’s going to happen in the freakiest Final Four ever.

This is the first time a No.1 or No. 2 has no seed at the table. The total seeding number of the four schools, 26, tops the old record by four.

You can pontificate on high about the key players and possible pivot points. Surely, in the first game, Butler is going to have to control tempo and throw a spike strip down at the three-point line. VCU, in the tournament, has shot a ridiculous 44 percent from three-point range.

Connecticut vs. Kentucky, of course, is all about the star guards, Walker and Knight.

You might have already noticed this hasn’t been the best tournament to break out your “Amazing Kreskin” impression.

Beware the weekend signposts and proceed with caution.

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