NCAA championship game 2011

NCAA Tournament – National Championship

Tip-off: Monday, 9:20 p.m. EDT – Houston, TX

Line: Connecticut -3, Total: 129

It all began on November, when national championship discussions were focused on strength of NCAA schedule, power conferences, and Cam Newton’s eligibility. BCS football was on the brain on November 12 and YouWager.com bettors weren’t thinking about basketball yet. Kemba Walker and his Connecticut Huskies suddenly showed their face to bettors and earned a place in the national rankings.

While Walker was taking names and burying treys, the journey for the Butler Bulldogs (still suffering nightmares from last April’s half-court heave clanging off the rim with the subtlety of a church bell) was not as pleasant. After suffering their first loss of the season to Louisville, 88-73 on November 13, the pundits proclaimed the Bulldogs to be in critical condition. By the time their record fell to 4-4 on December 9, more experts were ready to administer last rites. Fortunately for Butler, players and coaches have more faith in a team’s resiliency than sports writers. Even after dropping three straight gut-wrenching losses (two in OT, a third loss by two points) between January 23 and February 3, Brad Stevens knew the truth about his team when they were 14-9 (6-5). To paraphrase the Ballad of Sir Andrew Barton, the Bulldogs were a little hurt, but not slain. They would lay down and bleed for a while, and then rise to fight again. It is that fight which has carried Butler to 14 straight wins, a conference championship game victory on its opponent’s home floor, two NCAA Tournament victories in the final second, a third in overtime, and a spot back in the National Championship game. As much as Monday night is about winning an NCAA title, the victor will be 50% champion, and 50% survivor. The last one standing in a game featuring two teams with so much fight, and so little quit, Ali and Frazier would be proud.

Calhoun’s Huskies are back in the title game for the first time since 2004. Calhoun is 5-1 lifetime in the Final Four, and will try to make it 3-for-3 in championship game appearances with a win this evening. After their 56-55 defeat of Kentucky last Saturday, Connecticut advanced to the title game In a college basketball game that was a lot lower scoring than anticipated, Kemba Walker led the way with 18 points, six rebounds, seven assists, and two steals. The Huskies came out victorious by defensively turning the Wildcats strength into a weakness. Kentucky shot 9-of-27 from beyond the arc as the length of the wing players for UConn forced John Calipari’s team to stroke well below its 40% three-point season average. The Wildcats also suffered at the FT line with their proficiency and their frequency, getting to the line just 12 times, while making only 4-of-12 for the game, a telling number in a game that was lost by a point. The Huskies shot only 8% (1-of-12) from downtown, and were outscored with the three-ball by a 27-3 margin, but were successful in the end by continuing their defensive vigilance all over the court. It was a strange statistical line for the game for Kentucky: 33.9% from the floor, 33.3% from three-point territory, and 33.3% at the foul line.

After Walker, Jeremy Lamb once again was the second-leading scorer with 12 points, and he continued his awesome offensive efficiency, going 5-for-8 from the floor Saturday. He is shooting 59.2% during the tournament. While the Huskies held a slight edge on the boards (38-37), they also held an edge where they prefer not to dominate: turnovers. The Huskies had 15 miscues, including a crucial one by Shabazz Napier with 0:18 left to give the ‘Cats a chance to tie or take the lead with a three. The 15 turnovers were enough to double UConn’s 7.3 per-game average in four NCAA Tournament games. Napier, Walker and their fellow backcourt mates have to be extremely careful protecting the ball against Butler’s experienced guards, who are quick and have a surprise defense element waiting to come out.

Butler barely made it with a 70-62 victory over Virginia Commonwealth. Butler got 24 points from its top shooter, Shelvin Mack, 17 points from its top all-around player, Matt Howard, and eight points from arguably the most experienced guard in the nation that comes off the bench, Zach Hahn, who will play in his second championship game on tonight. The star of the game in the big picture was Butler’s in-your-face defense. Butler outrebounded the Rams by a 48-32 margin. In terms of defending the shooters, VCU’s Jamie Skeen did have 27 points, but if you take away his 10-of-17 shooting day, the Bulldogs held the rest of the Rams to 13-of-41 FG (32%). While the two teams each put out there 24 points from beyond the arc, Butler made more free throws by game’s end (20) than VCU attempted (13). The 15-5 advantage on the offensive boards helped to generate second-chance opportunities that wore down the Rams attempts at a comeback. Connecticut’s wing defenders will need to be just as mindful of Butler’s long-range bombers. Mack has one of the quickest releases in the country, was 5-of-6 from beyond the arc Saturday, and is shooting 41.3% (19-for-46) from downtown for the tournament. Teammate Shawn Vanzant is hitting on 35.3% (6-of-17) from deep in the tourney, and Hahn 29% (5-for-17).

If the Huskies have another 1-of-12 three-point FG game like the one against Kentucky, things could get difficult fast for Calhoun’s team. In championship college basketball games, big shots are usually preceded by big rebounds that account for extra possessions. There are many games going on in the same big game, as Howard, Andrew Smith, and Khyle Marshall (8, 7 and 9 boards, respectively, in the win over VCU) will duel it out with Alex Oriakhi, Charles Okwandu, and Roscoe Smith (19 total boards vs. Kentucky) to see who can secure the most important possessions in the paint, and stay out of foul trouble at the same time. Because of the Huskie’s depth up front, Butler can least afford to see one of its top forwards taking an early seat with two first-half fouls.

Butler has done a great job in their last two NCAA Tournament. This college basketball team is 20-13 ATS (61%) overall. The Huskies are 22-12 ATS (65%) overall and have been as close as they can get to Butler as this astounding 10-game stretch of basketball which began on a Tuesday in the Big East Tournament will end one way or another tonight. Even though the NCAA point spread feels huge for two teams who haven’t won with a double-digit in a long time, sports betting online fans think that Connecticut will make it title No. 3 for their coach, and find a way to cover down the stretch:

CONNECTICUT is 12-1 ATS (92.3%, +10.9 Units) in all neutral-court games this season. The average score was CONNECTICUT 75.3, OPPONENT 65.5 – (Rating = 5*).

Jim Calhoun is 25-8 ATS (75.8%, +16.2 Units) after a close win by 3 points or less as the coach of CONNECTICUT. The average score was CONNECTICUT 74.5, OPPONENT 64.4 – (Rating = 3*).

CONNECTICUT is 9-1 ATS (90.0%, +7.9 Units) in road games versus excellent ball handling teams – committing <=12 turnovers/game this season. The average score was CONNECTICUT 71.6, OPPONENT 65.1 – (Rating = 3*).

CONNECTICUT is 9-1 ATS (90.0%, +7.9 Units) in non-conference games this season. The average score was CONNECTICUT 76.6, OPPONENT 62.7 – (Rating = 3*).

The last five or six games UConn has played have gone Under the total and these two highly-rated YouWager.com online betting trends also side with the Under for tonight’s big game.

CONNECTICUT is 13-2 UNDER (86.7%, +10.8 Units) versus outstanding ball handling teams – committing <=12 turnovers/game after 15+ games over the last 2 NCAA seasons. The average score was CONNECTICUT 66.8, OPPONENT 63.4 – (Rating = 3*).

Play Under – All teams where the total is between 120 and 129.5 points (BUTLER) – after 2 or more consecutive overs, in a game involving two average offensive teams (67-74 PPG) after 15+ games. (85-41 over the last 5 seasons.) (67.5%, +39.9 units. Rating = 3*).