Basketball Championships Begin!
Men's, Women's Final Four match-ups set
Some unlikely teams will be facing off in the Men's NCAA Basketball Final Four on Saturday and Monday. The Butler Bulldogs will face the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams at 6:09 ET on Saturday. The Bulldogs are ranked 37th, while the Rams are 50th.
The winner of that match-up will face the winner of another Saturday game. The fourth ranked Connecticut Huskies will face 11th ranked Kentucky Wildcats at 8:49 p.m. ET. The winners of the two games will tip off at 9:18 p.m. ET on Monday, April 4, for the NCAA Men's Basketball National Championship. All games will be played at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas.
The Bulldogs had to defeat some of the best teams in the nation to get to this point, so when they held a media event on Monday, this Kid Reporter was there to find out how.
"No matter what happened in a game, our mindset was always we're never going to lose this game," junior guard Ronald Nored told the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps when asked about the Bulldog magic.
Players also point to their head coach, Brad Stevens. Stevens, who has coached Butler since 2007, is the first coach of an Indiana college to achieve consecutive Final Four appearances. This is an amazing feat considering coaches such as Bob Knight, Gene Keady, and Digger Phelps all coached larger programs with a great deal of success in the past. And he is only 34 years old.
Butler players say Coach Stevens is the most superstitious person on the team—maybe the planet. Butler has eaten the same pre-game meal for the past two years now: spaghetti, chicken, baked potato, garlic bread, and fruit salad. But his superstitions seem to be working. It also might have something to do with his team ethics.
"One of our core principles in our locker room is humility," Stevens said. "And if you don't have that, you're not here. We've got to respect everybody."
When the Dawgs face the VCU Rams in Houston on Saturday, they are going up against another Cinderella team who barely made it to the field of 68 teams picked for March Madness. In other words, the Rams are a wild card that paid off.
The Rams and Bulldogs are very similar teams. Both are smaller schools from smaller conference and have been underestimated by most people. But they look to each other with respect.
"No, we are not going to underestimate them," said Bulldog guard Shelvin Mack. "Even though they played in a play-in game."
All of the Butler players are model student-athletes. In addition to playing basketball they must still attend classes, do course work, and graduate. Butler students on the team will actually videoconference into their classes when on the road. The team carries a 3.16 grade point average. Senior forward Matt Howard is a three-time Academic All-American and was named NCAA Division I Academic All-American of the Year.
"Our teachers are great with supporting us through e-mail and making sure we get our assignments done," said Butler senior Zach Hahn.
The Butler Bulldogs hope to make this Final Four even more memorable than last year's, when they lost the championship game to the Duke Blue Devils 61-59.
"It means quite a bit to go to the Final Four two times," Howard told this reporter. "It means realizing a dream twice, and hopefully we'll be able to realize the ultimate dream. We are going down there [Houston] to give it our best shot."
Also battling it out this weekend are the top four women's NCAA teams, which play in Indianapolis, Indiana, home of the — yes, you guessed it — Butler Bulldogs.
The powerhouse Connecticut Huskies have won the last two championships and dominate women's basketball. They have lost only one game in the last three seasons. The top-ranked Huskies meet up against second-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish at 9 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 3.
At 7 p.m. ET, the Stanford Cardinals will face off against the Texas A&M Aggies.
The winners will then tip off at 8:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, April 5, for the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship.
For another story about the Final Four, check out Kid Reporter Charlotte Arnold's interview with two college journalists covering the Kentucky Wildcats.
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