We have the Final 4 set with the VCU Rams set to play the Butler Bulldogs in one semifinal and in the other we have the Kentucky Wildcats facing the Connecticut Huskies. Random fact for you about the tournament: over 53 million brackets were filled out on ESPN and out of that only 2 had all four Final Four teams correct. We have 1 SEC, 1 Big East, 1 Horizon, and 1 Colonial. It’s the highest seeds ever by quite a large margin with a total of 26 (3, 4, 8, 11). So let’s break down each of the games that got us to this point.
Butler 74, Florida 71
This was the first of the four games to determine the Final Four and it set the stage for the other ones to follow which they did. It was an overtime affair in which Butler came back from an 11 point deficit with just over 9 to play in regulation and hit a late 3 to send it to overtime. Shelvin Mack scored 27 points and hit the go ahead 3 to put Butler up for good at 72-70 with 1:27 to go in overtime. The Bulldogs would not quit and fought and fought like they have done throughout the tournament. Vernon Macklin led the Gators with a career high 25 points and Alex Tyus added 14 points and 10 boards.
Connecticut 63, Arizona 61
Arizona started out strong on a 9-1 early run but Connecticut fought back and had the halftime lead as Derrick Williams struggled with foul trouble in the first half with only 6 points and 3 fouls. In the second half, Arizona rallied back and Williams played much better. Arizona had a chance to hit a last second shot but was unable to convert as Connecticut held on to survive and advance. Kemba Walker finished with 20 points and Jeremy Lamb added 19. Williams finished with 20 points as well.
VCU 71, Kansas 61
This game was crazy as VCU trailed 6-0 but rallied and was up by as many as 18 in the first half. It was a 14 point deficit at the half and Kansas was able to close the lead to 2 but never took the lead and VCU played better and outexecuted Kansas. Check out Zach Wilt’s piece for more on the game. As a Richmonder, I can not be more happy for the Rams advancing to the Final Four. Around the campus, it was crazy last night.
Kentucky 76, North Carolina 69
The game was 70-69 Kentucky with a little over a minute to play and Carolina had the ball. Kendall Marshall drove to the basket and was blocked. Then on the other end, Brandon Knight drove to the hoop and kicked out to Deandre Liggins for the 3 which he knocked down to break Carolina’s back. Knight finished with 22 points to lead the ‘Cats back to the Final Four for the first time since 1998.