HOUSTON » It was a great night of basketball. As I had predicted, it will be Butler vs. UConn tomorrow night. It will be Butler’s experience vs. the youth of UConn (seven freshmen) led by Kemba Walker. By the way, Dickie V. was 0-2.
In the first game, Butler won the last 2 minutes of each half to beat VCU, becoming the first No. 8 seed to make it to the final game since Villanova in 1985. And Butler goes to back-to-back final games. Is there a better young coach than Brad Stevens? I doubt it. In fact, there may be no better coach in college basketball.
Matt Howard decided not to go pro after last year’s loss to Duke, and last night his play down the stretch was the difference. Butler made its free throws, and held off a determined VCU team that lost because it was outrebounded by 16.
In the nightcap, Kentucky lost because it could not make free throws (4-for-12). How many times have we said you can’t win tournament games by missing free throws. Kentucky also shot 2-for-12 from behind the arc in the first half to trail by 10, but made four consecutive 3s to start the second half to make the game a nail-biter. In fact, Kentucky had a chance to win but missed a 3 with 2 seconds to play.
There must have been 15,000 Kentucky fans, way more than any other school. Tickets will be there for the asking tomorrow. Can’t say I am sorry to see them go.
So now it’s the team that does it right, a so-called midmajor, Butler, against a UConn team whose coach continues to make unwanted headlines. Yesterday it was reported that former UConn player Nate Miles is now willing to talk to the NCAA about his recruitment after apparently wanting to be paid to talk. According to reports, he says Calhoun was aware of improper benefits offered by a former team manager. They allegedly included clothes, shoes and $250 every three days after he committed to UConn. Calhoun has already been suspended for the first three Big East games next season.
Earlier yesterday, we went to the Jewish coaches breakfast with former Rainbows assistant Eran Ganot. I learned from Bernie Fine, Syracuse’s longtime assistant, that the Orange will play on Maui in 2013. The national Jewish coach of the year was Josh Pastner of Memphis.
Then it was lunch with Hawaii coach Gib Arnold, just back from 10 days in Europe. Gib talked about his hopes and plans for next season, including the summer trip to Japan and China. It’s time for Arnold to get a signed contract that reflects the success of the team, including the increased attendance and excitement the team brought to the community. Gib told me he understood his name was mentioned for the coaching jobs at Utah, Fresno State and Wyoming, but told me he never spoke to anybody about these jobs and that he loves his job at UH. He told me he thought Hawaii would be picked fourth or fifth in the WAC in the preseason.
Follow Jeff Portnoy’s blog, "Hoops Talk," at staradvertiser.com.