NCAA table is finally set with Butler and UConn

Apr 2 2011 - 11:43pm

HOUSTON -- Butler will have to go through the big, bad Big East for the national title.

The Bulldogs will face third-seeded Connecticut, another one of college basketball's bluebloods, on Monday night as it tries to make up for last year's heartbreak against Duke. The Huskies (31-9) already have two national titles, and Kemba and the kids are on quite a roll, winning their 10th straight elimination game with a 56-55 victory over Kentucky on Saturday night.

But Butler (28-9) is on a pretty good run of its own, winning its 14th straight with a 70-62 victory over VCU in the first national semifinal.

The Bulldogs are the lowest-seeded team to play for the national title since Villanova won it as a No. 8 seed in 1985.

"We're not going to settle on just getting back," said Zach Hahn, who came up big off the bench in Butler's win. "I remember the sour taste it left in my mouth last year, and I just think this group, we're here now and we have a chance. That's all you can ask."

Shelvin Mack scored 24 points, Hahn scored all eight of his points during a 90-second span in the second half that gave Butler control of the game for good.

"We've just got to be one shot better than last year," coach Brad Stevens said.

VCU (28-12) sure didn't look like a team critics dismissed as "unworthy" -- and a whole lot worse -- after it skidded into the NCAA tournament with five losses in its last eight games. But Butler's stifling defense was too much for the Rams, only the third No. 11 seed to reach the Final Four.

"Butler was the aggressor for the majority of the game," VCU coach Shaka Smart said. "We had our runs."

But not enough of them.

Jamie Skeen scored 27 and Bradford Burgess had 15, including three 3-pointers before the game was even seven minutes old. But Stevens is known for his tactical acumen, and this game was no different. He tweaked Butler's defense, and Burgess had just one more 3 the rest of the night.

Meanwhile, Walker scored 18 points to lift Connecticut to its 10th straight victory since finishing off a .500 regular season.

Walker, a quick-handed junior from the Bronx, added seven assists to help UConn (31-9) extend a winning streak that started with a five-wins-in-five-nights leg-drainer at the Big East tournament and now includes five more at the tournament that really counts.

"We've got a heck of a challenge on Monday night, but the fact that we're playing Monday night, that's beautiful," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said.

This one was not pretty on either end.

Fourth-seeded Kentucky (29-9) shot 33.9 percent for the game and went 5:39 without a point late in the second half.

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