#11 VCU Rams (28-11) vs. #8 Butler Bulldogs (27-9)
Final Four Pick
Betting Line: Butler -2.5 o/u 133
The best thing about this Final Four Game between the Southwest Region champion VCU Rams (28-11) and the Southeast Region champion Butler Bulldogs (27-9) is that one of them is guaranteed to play for the national championship on Monday night. Either would be an underdog in the title Game, but both have carried that label with pride throughout this year’s NCAA Tournament on their way to perhaps the most improbable matchup in the history of the Big Dance.
The 11th-seeded Rams are the first team ever to win five Games en route to the Final Four, as they were one of the First Four who had to play their way into the Tournament field. They finished Fourth in the Colonial Athletic Association during the regular season and were a controversial choice by the selection committee, but winning five in a row straight-up as underdogs of Four points or more proves they belong here. Even more impressive, only one VCU victory during that stretch has been decided by less than 10 points (a 72-71 overtime win against Florida State).
The eighth-seeded Bulldogs (-2.5) have been here before — last year in fact — but few gave them much of a chance to repeat that feat after losing their top player Gordon Hayward to the NBA. They too have been underdogs in all of their Tourney Games so far and are 9-1 straight-up and against the spread in the Big Dance over the last two years. Seven of Butler’s last eight covers in the NCAA Tournament have been as dogs, and seven of the team’s last nine Tourney Games have been decided by Four points or less. All of those close calls make the Bulldogs a risky play here.
Our model has this Game right on the number with Butler winning 70-68, so no edge for us there. Any team that makes it this far is on a roll of course. But in terms of outperforming against the spread, and playing above their regular season ratings, no team is hotter than VCU. They are playing close to 20 points above their regular season rating which is simply insane. Hopefully they didn’t peak when they knocked off power house Kanasas last time out. Talk about impressive. No reason not to take the points here.
Pick: VCU +2.5