Friday, April 1, 2011, 5:33 p.m.
By Ryan OHalloran
HOUSTON The nuts and bolts of Saturdays Final Four matchupmid-major showdown between VCU and Butler.
What: The first of two national semifinal games.
Who: No. 11 seed VCU vs. No. 8 seed Butler.
When: Saturday, 6:09 p.m. Eastern
Where: Reliant Stadium.
Records: VCU 28-11, Butler 27-9.
How teams got to Final Four: VCU defeated USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas; Butler defeated Old Dominion, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin and Florida.
Coaches: VCU Shaka Smart (second year); Butler Brad Stevens (fourth year).
Line: Butler by 2.
PROBABLE STARTERSVCUPos. No. Player Year Ht. Stats
G 12 Joey Rodriguez Sr. 5-10 10.5 ppg, 5.1 apg
G 20 Bradford Burgess Jr. 6-6 14.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg
G 50 Ed Nixon Sr. 6-4 7.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg
F 21 Jamie Skeen Sr. 6-9 15.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg
C 33 D.J. Haley Fr. 7-0 1.1 ppg, 1.6 rpg
BUTLERPos. No. Player Year Ht. Stats
G 1 Shelvin Mack Jr. 6-3 15.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg
G 2 Shawn Vanzant Sr. 6-0 8.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg
G 33 Chase Stigall So. 6-3 15.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg
F 54 Matt Howard Sr. 6-8 16.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg
C 44 Andrew Smith So. 6-11 8.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg
THINGS TO WATCHHANDLING THE STAGE
This isnt Butlers first rodeo the Bulldogs played in last years Final Four, losing to Duke in the championship game. VCU can say all it wants about how it won five straight games in the tournament, but this is a completely different deal.
The attendance is expected to be more than 70,000 and the court is situated right in the middle of the football field. Butler could have an advantage early on.
There is something to that, a little bit, but we dont necessarily think that since the majority of us were here last year, its going to be a deciding factor in the game, Butler senior Matt Howard said. At some point, its about execution; it really doesnt matter if youve been here before or not.
DEFENDING THE 3
VCU has hit 53 of 121 attempts from 3-point territory, a reason why the Rams have their five NCAA games by 13, 18, 18, one and 10 points.
If the Rams are connecting from downtown, theyll jump out on Butler just like they jumped out and away from Kansas in the Elite Eight.
Youve got to know who the guys are that are the most dangerous and that starts in transition, Butler coach Brad Stevens said. And then the game has evolved so much in regard to ball screens, you need to know where the other three guys are located because you can only help so much.
The Rams have been effective running a screen roll to create 3-point chances for Jamie Skeen, who is 8-of-16 from long range in the tournament.
Expect Butler to be extra physical to prevent the Rams open looks.
One thing that great defensive teams all have in common is theyre extremely physical, theyre aggressive and if you dont take the fight to them, then youre going to be in for a long night, VCU coach Shaka Smart said.
DICTATING THE TEMPO
Butler averaged 72 points per game and VCU 74 points per game but the teams go about it in different ways.
VCU wants to run offensively and press defensively; Butler is able to play a slow-down game. The tempo should be interesting because it sounds like Butler doesnt mind a track meet.
We dont hardly ever talk about tempo, Howard said. I dont remember Stevens ever mentioning tempo to us. Its about running the offense and if somebody is going press us, lets break that press with our set and then get into our offense.
VCU dictated the tempo against Kansas.
Its up to our guys, Smart said. We have to push the ball on the offense end and get them on their heels.
Contact O'Halloran at email@example.com.