Final Four Picks: VCU Rams vs. Butler Bulldogs Analysis

Last Updated: March 28th, 2011 by Adam Markowitz (Bankroll Sports Columnist)
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The Butler Bulldogs and the VCU Rams are arguably two of the most unlikely teams to ever make it to the Final Four. Here at Bankroll Sports, we have all of the ins and outs that you need to know about the first of the two national semifinals in Houston, TX.

VCU vs. Butler Odds at JustBet
VCU Rams +2.5
Butler Bulldogs -2.5
Over/Under 133.5
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Trends Of Note
The Rams have absolutely stormed through five games in the NCAA Tournament this year, accounting for five covers on the March Madness odds and five outright victories as underdogs, something that is just unprecedented by any standards in most any sport. They are now 9-0 ATS over the course of their last nine NCAA Tournament games overall, though they have never been in this type of a spotlight before in school history. However, if there is one bugaboo surrounding this team, it is that it is just 1-4 ATS over the course of its last five games played on Saturdays.

Butler has had a remarkable run as well, and it has some significantly more important NCAA basketball trends on its side. Sure, the Dogs are 4-0 SU and ATS as well in this tournament, something that is absolutely remarkable, but more importantly, they are 17-5 ATS over the course of their last 22 games played in the dance, many of which have come under Head Coach Brad Stevens. The Bulldogs are a whopping 21-4-2 ATS in their last 27 games against teams with a winning percentage above .600, and they are 40-16-2 ATS in their last 58 games played outside of the Horizon League. Butler is also 15-2 ATS in its last 17 neutral site games, which includes some great duels against fantastic teams both in and out of conference.

Players To Watch
For VCU, the men to really watch out for are Jamie Skeen and Bradford Burgess. These two make the perfect inside, outside combination, and they can both do a ton of damage from all over the course. Burgess actually had his quietest game against the Kansas Jayhawks over the weekend, as he only scored nine points. However, just like we saw against the Florida State Seminoles, he can be unconscious from beyond the arc and just knock down triples like it’s nothing. Skeen, a transfer from the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, stood toe to toe with Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris on Sunday, and the end result was one of his best games of the year with 26 points and 10 boards. He rarely takes time off in games, and he can stretch the entire court as well.

Of course, Butler has its own version of a dynamic inside, outside twosome with Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack. These two were key in the run to the finale last year in the dance, and they are both doing it once again. Howard is the gritty player that really probably doesn’t have all that much talent, but can really get the job done just through hard work. He’s always getting those tough boards, and he’s got a great shot from the outside as well. Howard has six straight games with at least 14 points scored, something that is really key for his team. Mack can just go off as he did against the Florida Gators, scoring 27 points on Saturday in the Elite 8. He also had 30 against the Pitt Panthers. The better the foe, the better this man plays, and this should be his time to shine now that he doesn’t have to split outside shots with the departed Gordon Hayward.

Keys to the Game
The trick for VCU is going to be three point shooting. March Madness betting fans know that this is the key to these mid major teams equalizing against the big boys, and the Rams have taken full advantage of it. Just listen to these three point stats from the games in this tournament… 12-of-25 against Kansas, 12-of-26 against Florida State, 8-of-21 against Purdue, 12-of-25 against Georgetown, 9-of-24 against USC… and all of this comes for a team that was shooting less than 36 percent from beyond the arc at the start of this tournament!

For Butler, obviously, defending the triple is going to be of paramount importance, but it seems like keeping Howard on the court is the bigger key. Howard is really the grit of this club, and if he isn’t in the fold, Butler is hard pressed to find a replacement for him. Over the course of the last two seasons in the dance, the Bulldogs were just significantly better with Howard out there than with him on the bench, and if he can stay out there, he should be able to provide Skeen with a heck of a battle in the paint. It’s not about the numbers. It’s just about keeping him and his presence out there on the court at all times.

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Posted in NCAA Basketball - Last Updated on Monday, March 28th, 2011 @ 6:40 pm (EST)
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