|#11||VCU (28-11) ||72|
|#8||Butler (27-9) ||69|
Despite Butler’s Cinderella run in last year’s dance, the Bulldogs’ 2011 tournament aspirations were still in doubt until they secured a win over Milwaukee in the Horizon League tournament championship. VCU can sympathize with the Bulldogs’ plight, as the Rams were universally berated for their at-large berth and had to prove their merit by participating in a “First Four” matchup. So it’s fitting these loveable long shots will battle for the chance to slay historic powerhouses in the nation’s title game. While the early sentiment seems to be favoring the experienced and veteran Bulldogs, the WhatIfSports’ engines expect Shaka Smart and VCU to emerge victorious over Butler.
The early returns for the Rams would not indicate such a result. With the score tied at 13 midway through the first half, the Bulldogs ripped off a 33-16 run, highlighted by nine points from Shelvin Mack and three buckets contributed by Andrew Smith. Heading into the locker room, Brad Stevens’ squad held a 46-29 advantage.
The Rams remained undaunted, cutting the deficit to four just seven minutes into the second half. VCU guard Joey Rodriguez ignited the comeback, scoring seven straight points. The combo of Brandon Rozzell and Rob Brandenberg soon followed suit, as the duo poured in a sequence of 13 points to swing the scoreboard in favor of VCU. The mid-majors exchanged countering blows the rest of the game, knotting the score at 69 with just a minute remaining. Jamie Skeen, a Wake Forest transfer who posted 26 points and 10 rebounds against Kansas, hit a corner three-ball with three seconds on the clock, and Butler’s desperation attempt went awry, giving the Rams a 72-69 win.
Rozzell’s 15 steered VCU, with support from Skeen (11 points, nine boards) and Bradford Burgess (12 points, nine boards). Matt Howard had 20 points and eight rebounds for Butler in defeat.
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