Final Four predictions: VCU vs. Butler

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CBSSports.com writers take their best shot at predicting which teams will play for the national championship.

VCU vs. Butler, 6:09 p.m. ET (CBS) | Connecticut vs. Kentucky, 8:49 p.m. ET (CBS)

· Doyel: Against Butler, VCU must do more than bring pressure
· Parrish: VCU's Smart, wife adjusting to sudden fame
· How they got here: VCU | Butler
· The Edge: Breaking down the matchup
· Blog: Rams feed off Smart's energy | Butler's bulldog arrives
Game preview
VCU highlights
Butler highlights
Gary Parrish, CBSSports.com Senior Writer
I picked Butler to lose its opening game in the NCAA tournament last season and then again this season, so I never expected to see the Bulldogs in back-to-back Rounds of 32, much less Final Fours. And yet here they are again -- rock solid and playing their best basketball at the right time of the season, and their opponent isn't one that can overwhelm them from a talent perspective because their opponent is one whose appearance is even more unlikely than theirs. VCU is good, clearly. But the truth is that the Rams have been shooting and generally playing at a level above their heads, and the guess here is that Brad Stevens figures out a way to snap that trend and end Shaka Smart's improbable run.
66-62
Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com Senior Writer
Here's your Shaka Smart update: During Friday's practice, the 33-year-old VCU coach dived for a loose ball in practice at Reliant Stadium. Somehow I can't imagine Jim Calhoun or John Calipari doing that. Point is, if you believe this is the Final Four's junior varsity game you are mistaken. Smart and Butler's Brad Stevens are two of the best tacticians in the country. "Shaka being the brilliant and smart, but cool, fighter," Calhoun said. "Brad hasn't said the wrong word, ever." Evenly matched doesn't begin to describe it. It's going to be VCU's 3-point shooting against Butler's clinical D. I'm not exactly breaking news here, but look for a game in the 60s going down to the last possession. The Bulldogs will come up with a play defensively to win it.
65-63
Gregg Doyel, CBSSports.com National Columnist
For this game, I'm a fan. I'm thinking like a fan, predicting like a fan, so bear with me if I get it wrong. But I've followed VCU as closely as anyone in the country since the real NCAA tournament began after the play-in games, and that familiarity has bred not just affection, but appreciation. I realize that all four teams in the Final Four are here because they've not lost -- duh -- but after watching VCU beat up on four seemingly superior teams, I simply cannot predict them to do anything but beat up on seemingly superior Butler on Saturday. And as far as that goes, I'm going to predict VCU to win the whole thing when we do this again Monday. It might not be logical, but dammit, logic hasn't applied to what VCU has done so far. Why should logic make an appearance now?
64-61
Mike Freeman, CBSSports.com National Columnist
What happens when two Cinderellas play each other in the Final Four? Do the laws of the known universe bend because of Cinderella-on-Cinderella action? Is it like sticking your tongue in an electrical socket or cats and underdogs living together? Though Butler is Cinderella with an asterisk, VCU has been DNA tested and is certifiable Cindy. VCU is more Butler than Butler, and while we can apply all types of logic and calculus in deciphering this game, the simplest thought is possibly the best one: This is VCU's time the way it was Butler's last year. Few people think VCU can maintain its volcanic shooting streak or high-tempo game against defensive-minded Butler, but why not? The way VCU destroyed Kansas, the Rams seem like they can do anything -- including beating Butler.
85-78
Eric Angevine, CBSSports.com Eye on College Basketball blogger
These two teams are so different in the style they play. VCU's run to the Final Four has been predicated on a preternatural ability to hit 3-point shots, which rarely works to this degree. Typically, a coach will be pretty happy to force his opponent to shoot jumpers all night, but that plan isn't working against the Rams. If the kids from Richmond finally start missing -- big 'if' -- then the game falls right into the hands of Butler and Matt Howard. Shaka Smart is amazing, but let's not forget that this is the second time around for Brad Stevens.
71-69
Jeff Borzello, CBSSports.com Eye on College Basketball blogger
Can VCU continue its historic run or will Butler get back to the title game? It will hinge on the individual battles, inside and out. Shelvin Mack has been a prolific scorer for Butler; can Ed Nixon, VCU's defensive stopper, slow him down? Bradford Burgess and Joey Rodriguez have been terrific offensively in the NCAA tournament, but Butler's Shawn Vanzant and Ronald Nored form one of the better defensive duos in the country. Inside, VCU's Jamie Skeen is an inside-outside option, creating matchup problems. But Matt Howard and Andrew Smith have done well against versatile big men before; meanwhile, Skeen needs to body up against Howard down low. The difference will be the tempo -- VCU won't be able to speed the game up and Butler will win.
71-67
Matt Jones, CBSSports.com Eye on College Basketball blogger
When in doubt on a game, I have a rule. Go with the team that has the two best players on the floor. Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack are better than any two players VCU has, and unlike in their previous games, the Rams will meet up against a top-notch coach who will be ready. Butler will slow the game down, work Howard on the offensive end and exploit the lack of team defense that VCU has gotten away with so far. Butler wins, and miraculously advances to its second consecutive final.
71-63
Matt Norlander, CBSSports.com Eye on College Basketball blogger
The VCU-Butler game's unlike anything we've seen in the modern tournament era. There's no favorite. No good guy vs. bad guy. Both these teams are the good guys. With that: no pressure? I think Butler wins, and here's why: it's the most methodical team in this tournament. Some have pointed to the Bulldogs' defense, but that's not it; Butler has patience on offense, which is why it so frequently finds itself in two-, three-, four-point games -- and winning them. VCU's more of a team of runs. Give me Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard in a great, close one.
64-60

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