ESPN's Dick Vitale, Hubert Davis, Jay Bilas, and Digger Phelps all just picked UConn to win the 2011 NCAA Championship Game. But I think Butler is going to win. Here's why.
At this point in the season, everyone is tired. I don't think that this is an earth-shattering statement, but in the case of Kemba Walker, this statement seems to be more applicable than it has been to any other player in any other Final Four. Not just because of his borderline legendary Big East Tournament performance, but because he's been carrying the UConn Huskies on his back since November, bringing his A game week after week.
As good as Shelvin Mack is, Walker is probably more important to his team than any one player was to any team in the country this year, save for Jimmer Fredette and BYU. Now, he's in the 2011 NCAA Championship game, and his legs just need to hold out for 40 more minutes. Louisville coach Rick Pitino, for one, doesn't think UConn will be able to pull through, but SI's Seth Davis has UConn winning 64-59.
I don't know either Walker or Mack personally, nor do I work for the training staff of the UConn Huskies or the Butler Bulldogs. However, based on the fact that I've watched a lot of basketball over the years and that I'm a human being who has engaged in athletic activity, I can reasonably infer that both of them are getting tired. Purely because they have the knowledge that this game is their last of the season and because this is what they've worked for all year, the adrenaline will take them through the game.
But, regardless of the fact that they will give it 100%, don't expect Mack and Walker to be blowing by their defenders or draining 25 foot jump shots over and over again. Adrenaline can only do so much for your legs.
The game shouldn't be a blowout in either direction, so if it comes down to the final couple of minutes, the determining factor might be who has more gas left in the tank, Mack or Walker. They have other players around them, and as cool as it is to see role players step up in huge situations, the stars will likely try to shine.
My prediction? Mack is the guy going stronger at the end of the game, and that's why Butler are going to win in an extremely close encounter, as Washington coach Lorenzo Romar predicts, along with Lost Lettermen. However, you would have to be an idiot with a serious gambling problem to lay money against Kemba Walker.