2011 Final Four Preview: VCU Rams vs. Butler Bulldogs (-2.5)
March 31st, 2011 – by Alex
In a battle of the teams that weren’t supposed to make it this far, the 8th seeded Butler Bulldogs (27-9) will square off against the 11th seeded Virginia Commonwealth (VCU) Rams (28-11). This game opens the Final Four and is expected to tip off on at 6:09 pm ET on Saturday with coverage of the game being shown on CBS. The winner of this game moves onto the championship round – the loser gets forgotten.
Nobody expected for Brad Stevens and his Butler squad to be back at this point again this year. Last year’s run to the championship game was dismissed by critics as a one-time occurrence attributed far more to the brilliant play of Butler’s NBA prospect Gordon Hayward than anything the coach or supporting cast brought to the table.
Turns out, the team was actually just a well-led, well-coached bunch taking the next step to college basketball greatness.
Even if you didn’t discount the Bulldogs as a one-hit wonder at the start of the year, the team’s play to close out the regular season wasn’t much of a confidence booster in terms of how far they would go in the tournament. They finished tied for first place in the Horizon League, sure, but they were hardly dominant in doing so. And, of course, given the quality of competition in that conference, dominance is an absolute must.
Nevertheless, Butler got their invitation to the Big Dance and made sure not to squander the opportunity to make a run. Schools like Old Dominion, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin and Florida were all victims of the Bulldogs’ 13-game winning streak, and now, Butler will aim to add another tally to their wins total as they take on the Cinderella to top all Cinderella stories – VCU.
On the offensive end, the Bulldogs have been led by Matt Howard who has averaged nearly 17 points and eight rebounds per game. He, along with Shelvin Mack and Shawn Vanzant (who average 15.9 and 8.1 points per game, respectively) make up a large chunk of the 72.1 points per game on 44.3 percent shooting from the field that this group has averaged.
This Butler group is also a better offensive rebounding team than their VCU counterparts with nearly 12.1 boards on the offensive glass per game, a stat that may ultimately play a huge role in who ends up winning this game.
VCU, meanwhile, opted for the long cut to make it to this point. A play-in game, countless top-tier opponents, and bad-mouthing from every commentator in the nation were checkpoints in the Rams’ journey to the Final Four. However, with victories against USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas on their resume, VCU has proved it once and for all – they deserve to be here.
Led by their personable head coach, Shaka Smart, this squad looks nothing like the group that finished in fourth place in the Colonial Athletic Association this year.
Offensively, this team’s scoring attack is led by Jamie Skeen and Bradford Burgess who average 15.4 and 14.2 points per game, respectively. Also key to the team’s success is guard, Joey Rodriguez, who averaged 10.5 points and 5.1 assists per game. Altogether, this squad has been good for nearly 72 points per game on 43.6 percent shooting from the floor.
While Stevens has come out and publicly blasted the importance of his team’s experience when it comes to playing at point in the college basketball postseason, it appears to be one of the few edges his club has. These two squads are both on hot runs, both have interesting young coaches and are both media darlings. Regardless of who wins, a good story is to be had and one of these teams will compete for the ultimate prize in Men’s Collegiate Basketball.
VCU vs. Butler Final Four Betting Odds: Despite the amazing run that VCU has been on, the Rams find themselves as a 2.5 point underdog to the Bulldogs according to the latest Final Four Betting Lines. Additionally, the over/under has been set at 133 total points with the over being favored slightly as indicated by the added betting juice applied to the wager at Bodog Sportsbook.
Even with VCU covering the spread in all of their five NCAA Tournament games, they are still just 18-20 against the spread in games that have been handicapped. Conversely, Butler has managed a 19-13-2 against the spread record including games within the NCAA Tournament.
Butler Bulldogs Betting Trends: Seeing as how that Butler has won their 13 games straight up, there are a lot of hot betting trends to cover with this team. In their last six games following a straight up win, and their last six overall, the Bulldogs are a perfect 6-0 ATS. Additionally, Butler is 15-2 ATS in their last seventeen neutral site games and 21-5-2 ATS in their last 28 games against teams with winning records. Being that they were an underdog in all four of their games thus far in this tournament, Butler has been a perfect 4-0 ATS in this NCAA Tournament. Finally, the Bulldogs are 40-16-2 ATS in their last 58 non-conference games.
Virginia Commonwealth Rams Betting Trends: Just like the Bulldogs, the Rams have been underdogs is every one of their NCAA Tournament games thus far. With that said, VCU has been a winner against the spread in all five of their games this tournament going back to the First Four games. Beyond that, despite not winning all of these games, the Rams have gone 9-0 ATS in their last NCAA Tournament games going back a few seasons. Additionally, in their last five games overall as an underdog of .5 to 6.5 points, VCU has gone 4-1 ATS. Finally, be aware of the fact that VCU is just 1-4 ATS in their last five games played on Saturday.
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