NCAA Final Four: Amazing (Butler Basketball) Vs. Miraculous (VCU Basketball)

I tried writing separate preview pieces for No. 8-seeded Butler Bulldogs and No. 11 VCU, but I couldn't because it's hard not to link these two teams together into one big piece of ... well... I don't even know if they've made a word that describes how good this game could be. The Bulldogs (27-9) and the Rams (28-11) not only are two mid-major Cinderellas that have won the hearts of college basketball fans everywhere, but each will get a chance to play for a National Championship on Monday night. That's because both will square off against each other Saturday night (6:06 p.m. on CBS) in the first NCAA Tournament Final Four contest in Reliant Stadium in Houston, TX.

Some fans might not like that VCU and Butler have to play each other to advance to the NCAA Tournament's finale, but I like it for a few reasons: 1) The matchup between the two teams is very intriguing because each squad will be playing the underdog card; 2) how Bulter head coach Brad Stevens will game plan against VCU coach Shaka Smart (and vice versa) will be interesting to witness; 3) the fact that each team will be playing for a chance to take down one of colleges basketball's elite programs (either No. 3 UConn or No. 4 Kentucky) will crank up an already intense showdown; and 4) when Amazing (Butler) faces off with Miraculous (VCU), it does not get much better than that.

Need proof? Check out this breakdown:

Amazing (the Butler basketball program), which earned its way into the tournament by winning its second straight Horizon League Tournament championship, will try to earn its second consecutive trip the national title game. I'll say that again, the Bulldogs, who are a mid-major from Indianapolis, IN; lost their best player, Gordon Hayward after last season; needed to beat the No. 1, 2 and 3 seeds in their Southeast Region bracket (last year they also defeated the top two seeds), to advance to their SECOND STRAIGHT Final Four.

This year, amazing's NCAA Tournament journey featured a second-round, buzzer-beating victory over No. 9 Old Dominion, 60-59. Two days later, amazing knocked off No. 1 Pittsburgh Panthers in one of the most amazingly amazing finishes, 71-70. Then, last Saturday, amazing amazed us all by battling back from a 11-point second half deficit to down No. 2 Florida Gators, 74-71, in overtime.

Miraculous (the VCU basketball program) received an at-large invitation because it finished the season 3-5 in its last eight games (that's not really why, but stay with me...). Then miraculous, because of their no-so-solid regular season resume, which was lambasted by college basketball experts like Dick Vitale, needed to earn its way into the March Madness bracket of 64 by playing the USC Trojans in a "it's not really a play-in, but it really is a play-in" contest in Dayton, OH. on March 16. Miraculous downed USC, 59-46, and advanced to the second-round to play No. 6 Georgetown Hoyas, who were dominated, 74-56.

From there, miraculous, from Richmond, VA and the Colonial Athletic Association, went on to beat (and sometimes smash) other squads from big-time BCS conferences like: the Big Ten's No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers, 94-76; the ACC's No. 10 Florida St. Seminoles, 72-71; the Big 12's No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks, 71-61. Yes, miraculous, behind an average of a miraculous amount of 3-pointers (an average of about 11 per game) ended the seasons of five different BCS conference schools (the SEC's Kentucky Wildcats come from the last league on the BCS checklist) to keep its miracle-run miraculously alive.

Either way, amazing or miraculous will become only the third team in NCAA Tournament history that will win a Final Four contest with seed of eight or lower (No. 8 Villanova won the 1985 title, while the '80 UCLA Bruins, also seeded eighth, earned a trip to the title game).

Now that's just amaculous, if you ask me. And, as a college basketball fan, I can't miss out on Final Four paring described like that.

-- For more on our NCAA Tournament coverage visit our March Madness special section.




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