VCU vs. Butler: Three story lines
1. Butler’s second chance – The Bulldogs almost won last year’s NCAA title, but a half-court shot by Gordon Hayward clanged off the rim as time expired in the Blue Devils’ 61-59 victory. Making one Final Four was surprising enough for Butler, but earning a second trip seemed downright impossible after losing Hayward to the NBA draft. Yet here the Bulldogs are, one of four teams remaining in the 2010-11 season. Brad Stevens’ squad isn’t as good as it was a year ago, but this Final Four also doesn’t feature opponents as good as the Michigan State and Duke teams Butler faced last season. In other words, among this group, a national championship may not be all that big of an upset.
2. Coaches – Butler’s Brad Stevens and Virginia Commonwealth’s Shaka Smart are two of the hottest names in coaching. But don’t assume either will bolt for more money. At least not yet. Stevens had the chance last year after the Bulldogs’ Final Four run, but he ignored overtures from schools such as Oregon so he could stay at Butler. It will be interesting to see if Smart – who could be a candidate at North Carolina State, Missouri and other schools – follows the same path and stays at VCU. Neither coach seems like the type of guy to leave for a job that is anything but a perfect fit.
3. Butler’s ability to defend the 3-point shot – The Bulldogs’ last two opponents – Wisconsin and Florida – combined to make just 10 of their 43 attempts from beyond the arc. Most of that was because of a menacing Butler defense that will need to be at its best against VCU, which built an 18-point lead against Kansas on Sunday mainly because of its prowess from long range. The Rams went 12-of-25 from beyond the arc in upsetting the top-seeded Jayhawks in the Elite Eight.