Who could have predicted this? No. 3 seed Connecticut and No. 4 seed Kentucky were in plenty of people's Final Four brackets. But No. 8 seed Butler and No. 11 seed VCU, which needed to win a First Four game just to make the Round of 64, were longshots to win their regionals. Stats guru Ken Pomeroy's formula spit out the following Final Four probabilities, pre-tournament: Butler 1.0 percent, VCU 0.03 percent. VCU was even an underdog in its First Four game against USC.
But Butler's Southeast regional win and VCU winning the Southwest means that a mid-major will be in the National Championship game for the second consecutive year. Eleventh-seeded VCU will be the lowest-seed Butler has faced so far in the tournament. Find out more about the two underdogs, plus now-title favorites Kentucky and Connecticut, in Comcast.net Sports' Final Four preview.
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Bid: Automatic, Big East Tournament Winner
Coach: Jim Calhoun
Best Case Scenario: Connecticut plays like it's played all postseason -- the Huskies have won nine games in 19 days -- and plows through the final two games of the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies get enough second chances on the offensive glass to stay with Kentucky and Kemba Walker does the rest. In the final, UConn has a huge height advantage against either Butler or VCU, pounds the boards again, and the Huskies make it 11 postseason wins and a national title.
Worst Case Scenario: UConn is tall and great on the offensive glass, but Kentucky is very good on the glass and can go taller if necessary. Against the bigger Wildcats, the Huskies can't get enough second chances to stay competitive and Kemba Walker is held in check in a loss.
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Bid: Automatic, Southeastern Conference Tournament Winner
Coach: John Calipari
Best Case Scenario: Kentucky hit some growing pains mid-season, but freshmen Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb have come a long way. WIth Josh Harrellson pounding the glass and maybe a larger lineup in general, the Wildcats match the Huskies' height and grind out another tournament win. In the final, Kentucky dominates a smaller Butler or VCU squad and wins the national title.
Worst Case Scenario: Kentucky is probably the favorite at this point; most of the computer rankings rate them slightly better than Connecticut. But they're not perfect: The Wildcats get bullied around by a larger UConn squad, Brandon Knight doesn't hit any big shots and Kentucky plays like it did on the road in SEC play.
(AP Photo: Julio Cortez)
Bid: Automatic, Horizon League Tournament Winner
Coach: Brad Stevens
Best Case Scenario: Butler, who has been ahead of VCU in every rating system all season, jumps out to an early lead against the Rams and VCU's three-point shooting goes cold. Butler doesn't turn the ball over much and neither Kentucky nor UConn force many turnovers. In the title game, the Bulldogs keep those trends going, hit a lot of their shots and take home the improbable title.
Worst Case Scenario: VCU's a decent shooting team, and it occasionally really shoots the three-pointer well. In the national semifinal, a barrage of VCU threes puts Butler in an early hole it can't crawl out of.
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Bid: At-Large, Runner-Up in Colonial Athletic Association Tournament
Coach: Shaka Smart
Best Case Scenario: VCU keeps winning the turnover battle and hitting big threes. Butler goes down easily in the first round and VCU's three-point prowess continues into the final, giving the Rams a surprisingly easy win. VCU later shakes hands with the president at the White House and Shaka Smart gets his own reality show on E!, Get Smart.
Worst Case Scenario: VCU goes cold. Butler hits from outside, or goes inside and hits a bunch of free throws. The Bulldogs bounce the Rams from the tourney in unceremonious fashion.
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Two of the four remaining coaches in the NCAA Tournament are definitely household names. The other two are well on the way to joining that club, too. Let's take a look at the four coaches left, all of whom appear to have done an incredible job this year.
John Calipari, Kentucky: Calipari is back in the Final Four with a third different team. This season's job is one of his best: The Wildcats lost in the Elite 8 last season, then lost DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson and Eric Bledsoe to the first round of the NBA draft. Calipari brought in a lot of top recruits, but he also molded them into a cohesive unit to get the Wildcats this far.
Jim Calhoun, Connecticut: UConn wasn't expected to do much this year, then junior Kemba Walker and a bunch of kids knocked off three good teams in the Maui Invitational Tournament -- including an 84-67 thrashing of Kentucky in the championship game. After a 9-9 Big East season, Calhoun clearly got the Huskies ready for the postseason.
Brad Stevens, Butler: With the advantages in revenue and recruiting reaches the teams in major conferences have, it's pretty incredible for a mid-major to make the Final Four. Butler, out of the Horizon League, has been to the Final Four two straight years. Much of the Bulldogs' success can be attributed to Stevens, who has them on a 13-game winning streak.
Shaka Smart, VCU: The biggest unknown coming into the tournament, Smart has become a tourney darling. He has VCU firing on all cylinders: The Rams have both blown out opponents (USC, Purdue, Georgetown, Kansas) and won tight contests (Florida State in the NCAAs and Drexel in the CAA Tournament).
(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
VCU: Jamie Skeen, a Wake Forest transfer, and Joey Rodriguez anchor a senior-laden starting lineup. Rodriguez is a great distributor with good instincts while Skeen has been unstoppable in the NCAA Tournament, winning his region's Most Outstanding Player award.
Butler: Junior guard Shelvin Mack takes most of Butler's possessions and has been incredibly efficient with them in the tournament. Inside, Matt Howard hit the game winner at the buzzer in the Round of 64 against Old Dominion.
Connecticut: It was The Kemba Show in Storrs all season, and it's continued throughout the NCAA Tournament. He's shot well from the field in the tournament and he's also getting inside a ton: He's 33-for-36 from the line.
Kentucky: Brandon Knight didn't score in the Wildcats' first tournament game against Princeton... until he hit the game-winning bucket. He also only scored seven against Ohio State... until he hit the game-winning jumper. Oh, and he had 30 against West Virginia and 22 against North Carolina.
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
All of the Final Four teams had rough stretches during the regular season.
Connecticut: The Huskies lost four of five to close the regular season, including home losses to Marquette and Notre Dame.
Kentucky: The Wildcats went 3-6 on the road in conference play, including a stretch of four straight road losses, including one to Arkansas, which finished 7-9 in the SEC.
Butler: The Bulldogs dropped three straight -- including a loss to woeful Youngstown State -- and four of five midway through the conference season, leaving them at 6-5 in the Horizon League and essentially eliminating them from an at-large bid. They haven't lost since.
VCU: The Rams, like UConn, lost four of five in-conference to close the regular season, including a 20-point loss on its home court to George Mason. They also lost to a 12-19 Georgia State team.
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)