Butler vs. UConn Preview: Why The Bulldogs Will Take Home The Title

04/04/2011 04:15 pm ET | Updated Jun 04, 2011
  • Jordan Schultz The Huffington Post

Looking at tonight's national title game on paper, all signs point to an abundance of Connecticut advantages.

The Huskies for one are superior athletically, at every position. With the exception of Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard, not one Butler player would see significant playing time on the UConn team. Butler is the ultimate sum of its parts. Look at their opponents throughout the tournament and there are mismatches all over: Pittsburgh, Florida, Wisconsin, even VCU had better players. This is more than a trend really. Let's not forget: it's "The Butler Way." Brad Stevens, quite simply, has masterfully coaxed every last ounce of talent from his team.

One of UConn's biggest strengths is its ability to push tempo and beat you on the break. By game's end, even against the ferocious speed of Kentucky, the Wildcat players were exhausted (which is why you should never play only six guys, but that's another story). Walker himself is a tireless force, dictating the transition game right from the tip and never relinquishing the gas. (He has played 384 out of the 405 minutes possible since the start of the Big East Tournament, and every second of the last three games.) But Walker's kryptonite in this game isn't anyone on the Butler roster ... it's Brad Stevens, who will limit Walker's hellish up-tempo game.

Kemba, as great as he is in the halfcourt, excels the most running the fastbreak, where he becomes the ultimate assassin and playmaker, hence his near 60 percent shooting on the break. Stevens' gameplan to slow him down won't be dissimilar to the Florida game, with Erving Walker as an up-tempo point guard and Chandler Parsons as the trigger man on offense. While Erving Walker isn't near the talent of Kemba and Lamb doesn't have the passing skills of Parsons, they are both comparable counterparts: Florida's Walker in terms of speed and quickness, and Parsons and Lamb in terms of size along with rebounding, feel for the game and versatile scoring ability.

With Stevens as its orchestrator, Butler will focus on making UConn play two very distinct ways: slow and ugly, which is why Walker, despite his brilliance, isn't the key factor for the Huskies in this game. That pressure falls on two players. Firstly, the freshman Lamb, who has been stellar throughout Connecticut's ten-game winning streak and seen his draft stock rise into the lottery as a result. Lamb needs to get 20 plus and capitalize on the looks he'll receive from Kemba's dribble-drives. But even more important for Connecticut is sophomore big man Alex Oriakhi.

An enigma at times, Oriakhi has all of the tools to dominate this game on the block. While Matt Howard enforced his will against the undersized VCU bigs, he was rather ineffective against the more athletic and lengthier bigs of Florida (14 points and 5 rebounds, 0 offensive), in particular Vernon Macklin, who had a career game in the loss. Even against Pitt, the second most athletic frontline he's faced in March, he pulled down 6 rebounds, but once again, zero on the offensive end. Howard is extremely prone to foul trouble and will pick up ticky-tack calls against an overly aggressive player, which is what Oriakhi can be when he's focused.

Other than a few put backs though, Oriakhi really doesn't need to score. If he can give you 12-14 points that's great, but if not, UConn is still okay. The real key for Oriakhi is to control the glass, and more specifically, control Howard and the active freshman Khyle Marshall.

As we've seen, Butler just isn't offensively gifted enough to beat you with one-shot possessions. A critical component of "The Butler Way" is winning the rebounding margin. While the Bulldogs escaped the Florida game, they struggled mightily containing the Gator frontline, both on the block and the boards. With Butler sure to slow the game down, Oriakhi, with his 6-9 frame and girth inside, must deliver an ace effort tonight, both limiting second chance opportunities for Butler and creating them for UConn.

The bottom line is that Butler, with the exception of Shelvin Mack's pull-up threes in transition, wants to lull the defense asleep by working the clock and running intricate offensive sets. Because the Bulldogs only give up five transition points per game and will thus limit the running attack of UConn, this game will ultimately come down to experience.

And strangely enough, with all the pedigree of the Huskies, Butler is the more experienced team. Mack and Howard have both been here before. Jim Calhoun is a genius coaching mind and will surely instill the importance of patience to his young team, but it won't matter. The 34-year-old baby-faced Stevens, with his assortment of unrecruited castoffs, will control the flow all night long, frustrating the young Huskies - especially freshmen Shabazz Napier and Roscoe Smith -- into poor shots and unnecessarily hurried offensive possessions.

When the clock reads zeros, parity reigns supreme, and Butler will be national champions, perhaps ending the reign of college basketball's BCS "super-program."

Follow Jordan Schultz on twitter at @206Child.