This is the best time of year for many sports fans. Baseball season is underway (and with it, the promise of spring), the NFL Draft is around the corner, the NBA is gearing up for the postseason and, of course, the excitement of March Madness culminates with the Final Four and the crowning of a new national champion.
We’ll be on hand in Houston for the Final Four, along with our friends at Inifiniti, who debuted ads for their sleek new M Hybrid during tournament telecasts this year. Many consider March Madness the greatest event in sports, and to see two Cinderellas fight for the chance to meet two of the game’s most respected programs in the title game will be memorable, for sure.
Below, we’ve detailed five things we’re most looking forward to as we prepare for this weekend’s games. Check them out, but first, learn more about the all-new 360 hp, 32 mpg Infiniti M Hybrid, the high-performance hybrid.
1. Brad Stevens vs. Shaka Smart
These two are the hottest young names in the college coaching ranks and it will be interesting to see how the chess match plays out. Neither team runs at a blistering pace, but Smart will likely try to push the tempo to take advantage of his team’s depth and athleticism. Butler has struggled against the press, so VCU is likely to use pressure early and often. On the flip side, Stevens always seems to have the Bulldogs executing with precision both offensively and defensively, so look for Butler to get a few easy baskets coming out of timeouts.
2. VCU’s three-point shooting
By any measure, the Rams are on fire from long range in the tournament. After shooting a decent (but not great) 36% on the season, they’ve hit at a 44% clip in the tournament, and it’s been the difference in just about every game. Butler is pretty darn good at guarding the three-point line (32% on the season), so something has to give. If the Rams hit at a 40%+ clip on Saturday, they have a great chance to advance.
3. Matt Howard
This kid stands 6’ 8” and is 230 pounds of bone and muscle, with an emphasis on bone. The Butler forward typically is the least athletic player on the court, but he more than makes up for it with savvy and hustle. Need someone to give up his body to get a loose ball? Howard is your man. Need someone to calmly hit a free throw or a three-pointer in a tight game? Howard is your man. Need someone to awkwardly outplay the other team’s bigs? Yes, Howard is your man. We just wish that he still had his moustache.
4. Kemba Walker vs. the Kentucky defense
UConn has won its first four tournament games because it had the best player on the floor. Walker is averaging 26.8 points in the tournament, which is no surprise considering he’s coming off a five-game, 130-point scoring spree in the Big East Tournament. Conversely, the Wildcats are #20 in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency. That’s not elite, but it’s better than solid and you better believe that John Calipari will have a gameplan that utilizes his team’s rangy athleticism to try to slow Walker down. If UK holds Walker below his tourney average, they have a great chance to pull out a victory.
5. Jim Calhoun vs. John Calipari
There’s bad blood between these two since Calipari’s days at UMass when he beat out UConn for the services of Marcus Camby. Cahoun never likes to lose, but he especially wants to beat the hotshot, and Calipari still qualifies. It didn’t sit well with the UConn coach when Calipari made it to the Final Four before he did, so it would be sweet revenge to bounce Kentucky out on Saturday.
John Paulsen contributed to this piece. For more of John’s Final Four coverage, head over to The Scores Report.
Tags: 2011 Final Four, 2011 March Madness, Brad Stevens, Butler, final four, Final Four in Houston, Final Four with Infiniti, high performance hybrid, Infiniti, Infiniti M Hybrid, Jim Calhoun, John Calipari, Kemba Walker, Kentucky, M Hybrid, March Madness, Matt Howard, Shaka Smart, UConn, VCU