The UConn Huskies will take on the Butler Bulldogs tonight to decide the 2011 NCAA National Championship in Houston. The game is scheduled to tip-off at 6:23 PST and can be seen on CBS.
As we all know, UConn knocked off the Arizona Wildcats for a spot in the Final Four. They beat Kentucky on Saturday 56-55 to advance to the Championship game. Butler has beaten the likes of Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Florida and VCU (The "C" stands for Cinderella) to make it to this game.
The most important matchup of the game will be in the backcourt, between UConn's Kemba Walker and Butler's Shelvin Mack. If the voters could take the postseason into account, I think Walker would be a runaway selection for National Player of the Year. He has put his team on his back, and brought them to ten straight victories in elimination games, including a miraculous run through the Big East Tournament. Mack may not have the same name-recognition as Walker, but he is a big-shot-taker and a big-shot-maker. If he can keep Walker out of the paint on the Defensive end, while tiring him out on the other end of the court, Butler has a good chance to win this one.
The other important matchup is Matt Howard Vs. UConn's collection of rebounders. Howard has been a force on the offensive glass for the Bulldogs, while the Huskies have been getting solid rebounding contributions from Alex Oriakhi, Charles Okwandu, Roscoe Smith and Jeremy Lamb. If UConn can use their length to neutralize Howard in the paint (or if Walker can get him into early foul trouble like he did Kentucky's Josh Harrellson) than the game suddenly swings in UConn's favor. Oriakhi is the most important of these players. When motivated, he can be an absolute beast inside for UConn.
These are two very good defensive teams who don't mind playing an "ugly" game. It might not be the prettiest basketball game we've ever seen, but it should be a competitive one.