The NCAA Tournament started with 68 teams and now it’s down to just two. Butler and Connecticut will play for College Basketball’s greatest prize.
As for Butler, it has been an extremely impressive run through the tournament for a second straight year. For the Bulldogs, it’s been a tourney filled with buzzer-beaters, freak plays at the end of games, and a toughness that can be admired by all college basketball fans. Despite the fact that they are the eighth seed in their region, they’ve got the experience playing under the bright lights of the NCAA Championship game. It’s experience that can’t be overlooked heading into tonight’s game.
On the other side, UConn has made a run that goes beyond superlatives. Incredible. Unbelievable. Mindboggling. Pick any word that means the same as brilliant and it would be fitting. Yes, they have the best player in America in Kemba Walker and yes they were a number three seed, but what makes their run so incredible is the fact that the last ten games they have played dating back to the start of the Big East tourney have been elimination games played under immense pressure. For UConn to handle the pressure of being in a one and done scenario for ten straight games all the way to the championship goes beyond words.
Butler has the experience, they have two guys that can start anywhere in the country with Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack, they have one of the best coaches in America, they never get rattled, but they don’t have the best player in America on their side. They don’t have Kemba Walker. On the biggest stage, Walker’s greatness will be on display and he will lead his Huskies to a National Championship and cap off one of the greatest individual seasons in college basketball history.
Seth Davis joined The Dan Patrick Show to talk about who will have more fans tonight between Butler and UConn, who he thinks should be favored, whether or not he thinks Bard Stevens will stay at Butler, and if the Bulldogs have become the standard for mid-majors.
On what team will have the crowd tonight:
“Gosh I will say Butler because I think people that aren’t even Butler fans are going to be rooting for Butler tonight. They still carry that underdog label even though Jim Calhoun was trying to convince me they were the favorite and he had all the stats for me. I live in Connecticut like you Dan and you think about how popular UConn is in the state and the kind of following they have, those fans really do not travel. Our platform was right in the student section and even that thing wasn’t totally filled. I was a little surprised at how under-represented UConn was on Saturday night. I think more people in the dome are going to be rooting for Butler.”
Who he thinks should be favored:
“I think UConn should be favored. They’re still the beast from the East, but I’m actually a little surprised to see the line where it is because I’m not sure there is a talent gap. When you look at Butler you see Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard, those two guys can play with anybody and those two guys can start for any team in the Big East, plus they’re older. Even though Jeremy Lamb is a great talent, Alex Oriakhi is a sophomore for UConn, Butler has some older guys and guys that have played in the National Championship game before. I’m not seeing a real talent gap. I see an evenly matched basketball game.”
Whether or not he expects Brad Stevens to stay at Butler:
“I think Brad Stevens could retire as the coach of Butler. I think if Indiana opened up I could see him moving into that job. He makes a good living there, he will probably keep making more and more money, it’s a great fit, he’s an Indiana native, and it’s a much better job than a lot of these schools in power conferences. You look at what Mark Few has done at Gonzaga and Brad Stevens has taken that to another level. I don’t think he leaves for a place like N.C. State. If a Duke, Carolina, or a Kansas came open then maybe one of those jobs. Outside of Indiana I think he’s gonna stay at Butler for awhile.”
Whether or not Butler has surpassed Gonzaga as the standard:
“With all due respect to Gonzaga and Mark Few, not only are they higher than Gonzaga and playing in their second straight Championship game, but they are in a state that is loaded with players, good players that love to play basketball, and love to play basketball close to their home. He’s made his living finding guys who have quote unquote slipped through the cracks. Shelvin Mack is from Lexington, Kentucky and Kentucky didn’t recruit him. Brad Stevens can recruit kids from Indiana who love to play basketball, who are good students, and he can coach guys that he likes to coach. If he goes to another school, he might be recruiting a different kind of individual. Not worse, not less character, but just different. He’s in the perfect situation, he knows he doesn’t have to look over his shoulder, he knows he doesn’t have to worry about message boards, it’s not easy to sustain and obviously he’s not going to be in the National Championship game every single year, but he’s an incredible grounded and even-keeled mature individual for 34. Outside of Indiana I think he can potentially stay at Butler for the rest of his life.”
What his prediction is:
Listen to Seth Davis on the Dan Patrick Show here (Audio begins 14:45 into the podcast)