Matchup: No. 3 seed Connecticut clashes with No. 8 seed Butler in the 2011 NCAA National Championship Game in Houston, Texas.
Date/Time: Monday, April 4, 2011 - 9:23 p.m. EDT.
Broadcast Information: The final game of the 2011 NCAA Tournament will be broadcast on CBS, with Jim Nantz serving doing play-by-play, Clark Kellogg and Steve Kerr providing color commentary and Tracy Wolfson reporting from the sidelines.
Location: Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas (76,500 capacity). The home of the NFL's Houston Texans hosted the 2011 Final Four on Saturday and will serve as the site of the NCAA title game on Monday night.
Odds: As expected, Connecticut opened up as a four-point favorite over Butler. 5Dimes.com and Bodog.com both has UConn listed as a three-point favorite.
Series History: Monday night's meeting is the first ever between the Huskies and the Bulldogs.
Connecticut In The 2011 NCAA Tournament: UConn defied the odds, winning five games in five days to win the 2011 Big East Tournament. After that, the Huskies have continued to enjoy success, beating Bucknell, Cincinnati, San Diego State, Arizona and Kentucky to advance to the national title game.
Butler In The 2011 NCAA Tournament: Butler upset No. 9 seed Old Dominion in the second round and never looked back, triumphing over No. 1 seed Pittsburgh, No. 4 seed Wisconsin, No. 2 seed Florida and No. 11 seed VCU in Houston to advance to the national finals.
Breaking Down Connecticut (via Sports Network):
The Huskies get it done with strong defense and a potent backcourt consisting of the veteran Walker and freshman Jeremy Lamb. UConn enters this contest allowing a mere 65.4 ppg, while holding foes under 40 percent shooting (.398). Stifling defensive play was on full display against the Wildcats on Saturday, as UConn held Kentucky to a miserable .339 shooting effort. It was a much- needed effort, as UConn was not at its best offensively, including a terrible 1-of-12 showing from behind the arc. Walker had a strong all-around game, finishing with 18 points, seven assists and six rebounds against the 'Cats. Joining Walker in double figures was Lamb, who just missed a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds.
Walker has been a force all year long, including this tournament. The junior is averaging 23.7 points and 4.6 assists per game this season en route to First-Team All-American honors and the Bob Cousy Award, given annually to the nation's top point guard. Lamb (11.1 ppg) gives the team another perimeter threat, while sophomore forward Alex Oriakhi (9.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg) provides some balance down low. Other youngsters who have valuable roles on this team include freshman guard Shabazz Napier (7.9 ppg) and freshman forward Roscoe Smith (6.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg).
Breaking Down Butler (via Sports Network):
Despite shooting a mere .356 from the field overall, Butler earned the victory (over VCU) in the semifinals thanks to the play of Shelvin Mack outside and Matt Howard inside. Mack went 8-of-11 from the floor and hit big shot after big shot, finishing with five three-pointers en route to a team-high 24 points. Mack's confidence has continued to rise as the season has worn on.
The Bulldogs return three players who were in the starting lineup in last year's national title game. This season it has been Howard and Mack that have fueled the attack all season long. Howard is strong both inside and out, averaging 16.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, while shooting .409 from behind the arc (52-of-127). Mack handles things at the point and finds time to both score (16.1 ppg, team-high 83 three-pointers) and distribute (team-high 130 assists). Help down low comes from Andrew Smith (8.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg), while Vanzant (8.2 ppg) provides similar depth along the perimeter.
Predicted Outcome (via Sports Network):
UConn will set the modern day record by playing in its 41st game of the season tonight. Butler is the first national runner up to make it back to the title game since Duke in 1991. While that is quite the accomplishment, the Bulldogs may have to settle for second-best once again, as Walker is the difference- maker here and should be able to do enough to lead his Huskies to a national crown.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Connecticut 73, Butler 68