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National Championship predictions: Connecticut vs. Butler


CBSSports.com writers take their best shot at predicting which team will win the national championship (Connecticut vs. Butler -- Monday, 9:23 p.m. ET, CBS).

· Parrish: 'Underdog' Butler can change sports lexicon
· Doyel: Calhoun can go out on top ... if he wants
· Dodd: Butler counting on Nored to quiet Kemba
· The Edge: Breaking down the matchup
Game preview
Title game X-factors
Kentucky vs. UConn
VCU vs. Butler
Gary Parrish, CBSSports.com Senior Writer
I never believed at any point during last year's NCAA tournament that Butler would win the championship. Not when the Bulldogs made the Final Four. Not when they beat Michigan State in the national semifinals. Not even when Gordon Hayward's last-second shot seemed on path to give Butler an incredible win over Duke in the title game. I just didn't consider it realistic, even though it clearly was. But this? This, I think, is realistic, and nobody should be surprised when the Bulldogs beat UConn and complete one of the most impressive two-year runs in history. On one hand, it's a Horizon League school against a traditional Big East power led by a Hall of Fame coach and arguably the nation's best player. I get that. But on the other hand, it's a veteran team playing in its second consecutive title game against a school that finished ninth in the Big East, and that's enough to make me take the underdog Bulldogs.
Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com Senior Writer
How do you pick against Butler at this point? I was courtside for that clinical dissection of VCU Saturday night, and it just seemed, well, normal. The Fightin' Shakas never looked comfortable. Except for some brief flashes, they couldn't get their transition game going. These Bulldogs are automatons, robots, doing whatever their human overlord, Brad Stevens, says. As good as the Butler story has been, UConn's might be better; they've played 10 elimination games since early March. Kemba is Kemba, but he's about to meet a pair of defensive machetes in Butler's Shawn Vanzant and Ronald Nored. Because of that, UConn is going to need plenty of secondary scoring. It won't get it, at least not enough. Stevens had to love it that Kentucky and UConn played in the 50s. That's right in the Bulldogs' kitchen.
Gregg Doyel, CBSSports.com National Columnist
Went with the heart on Saturday, and the ticker let me down. Picked the VCU team I'd followed throughout this tournament over Butler, and picked my neighborhood Kentucky team over UConn. Neither worked, so the heck with my heart. For the title game I'm going with my head, and my head says UConn beats Butler. Not because UConn is from a "big" conference and Butler is a "mid-major." That stuff, this time of year, is crap. My head says UConn beats Butler, though, because guards win games like this, and UConn has the better guards. Shelvin Mack is fantastic, and the rest of the Bulldogs are fine, but UConn has a deceptively good -- I mean, really incredibly good -- three-guard lineup. Kemba Walker is sensational, obviously, but Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier are future pros as well. Lamb fills it up, and Napier is brilliant with the ball. How does Butler stop three great guards? It won't. Not enough to win, anyway.
Mike Freeman, CBSSports.com National Columnist
This is what will happen. Butler will put up one hell of a fight. The game will be close because that's what Butler does: play the big boys close. But this isn't Butler's moment. It's Jim Calhoun's. Because I think Calhoun is going to retire after this game. I think he's gone, and I think his players know this. So they're going to want to send Calhoun out with another title. Send him into retirement with more than just a watch and a pat on the back. Butler isn't only fighting the Huskies. The Bulldogs are fighting a moment in history and they lose in the final again.
Eric Angevine, CBSSports.com Eye on College Basketball blogger
Well, here we are again. UConn has Butler at a distinct athletic disadvantage all over the floor. Matt Howard is not even remotely a physical match for Alex Oriakhi down low. The Huskies just proved that they can win a game even when Kemba Walker is held below 20 points. Jim Calhoun is a legendary Hall of Fame coach who seems to make all the right moves when a championship is on the line. Sound familiar? It's exactly what I would have written last year, with slight name changes, when the Bulldogs faced Duke. Yes, they lost that one, but we all know how close it was. Betting against Brad Stevens at this point seems absurd, but so does betting against Calhoun and his surprising band of brothers. In the end, numbers have no predictive power in this matchup, so here's what my gut says: UConn by a nose in a photo finish.
Jeff Borzello, CBSSports.com Eye on College Basketball blogger
After Connecticut lost nearly everyone and Butler supposedly used up all its magic with last yearís title run, neither team was expected to be here. Luckily, each team kept what mattered: Kemba Walker at Connecticut and Brad Stevens at Butler. Now, in the title game, Stevens -- who has designed game plans to eliminate opponentís best players all tournament -- will need to come up with a way to stop Walker. Led by Ronald Nored, Butler has the individual defenders to keep up with Walker, although it remains to be seen if that can last all game. On the other side, though, does Butler have the offense to put up enough points against the Huskies? Connecticut rebounds and defends as well as anyone in the country. In the end, itís Kemba, Kemba, Kemba. He has done it all year; he will do it again.
Matt Jones, CBSSports.com Eye on College Basketball blogger
UConn's run through the postseason has been tremendous and is virtually unprecedented. Kemba Walker has led a team that finished ninth in the Big East and, over the course of the past four weeks, has carried the Huskies to a point where they are legitimately the best team in college basketball. The development of Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier has given UConn a number of scoring options and the defense has stepped up to such a degree that it held powerful Kentucky to only 55 points. But Butler will end the UConn train on Monday night. Brad Stevens' team is in its second consecutive championship game, an accomplishment so impressive that it almost boggles the mind. Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack will not shut down Kemba Walker, but they and the other Butler players will shut down everyone else and win arguably the most surprising NCAA college basketball title ever. And the first person to write "Butler did it," should be fired at that moment.
Matt Norlander, CBSSports.com Eye on College Basketball blogger
Just be one shot better -- thatís Brad Stevensí motto and mindset coming into this game. One shot better. One more basketball to fall, and a trophy heads to Hinkle Fieldhouse. Butler will win because itís the less erratic team. Itís methodical on offense and is winning on its terms. You think Kembaís a tough matchup on defense? He is, but no one for UConn has a counter for Shelvin Mack. And Matt Howard wonít be outplayed by any of the Huskiesí big men. Itíll be low-scoring, close and perhaps a little on the ďboringĒ side -- just how Butler wants it. Butlerís going to win, and after the shock of that wears off (if it ever does), then the wonderment and realization of this will soon enough sink in: This program came close to winning two national championships in two years.


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