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NCAA Tournament Open Thread: The National Semifinals

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After a little more than five days of hype, the Final Four has finally arrived, with the biggest contrast between National Semifinals ever on offer. Game one features two talented mid-majors who are hoping to upset the established college basketball order, while the nightcap features a true blueblood facing off with a team that is close to that class.

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National Semifinal No. 1
at Houston, TX

SW No. 11 VCU Rams vs. SE No. 8 Butler Bulldogs
CBS, 6:09 p.m. ET
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg, and Steve Kerr

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My Pick: How do you pick a winner between two teams who seemingly refuse to lose on this stage? VCU has gotten here against all odds, starting on Selection Sunday, when plenty of dopes like me questioned their very selection. The Rams have responded to every punch, showing little weakness over the past two weekends. Butler didn't need to worry about getting in, thanks to a Horizon League Tournament crown, but the Bulldogs would have likely been sweating bullets on March 13th had they not won the auto bid. No matter, as they've now won nine NCAA games in the past two years. I think that experience will be key in a matchup of two relatively even teams. KenPom.com projects a 69-68 Butler win, over 63 possessions. I'll go with that margin and victor. (In other words, expect the Rams to be playing for the title on Monday night.)

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National Semifinal No. 2
at Houston, TX

E No. 4 Kentucky Wildcats vs. W No. 3 Connecticut Huskies
CBS, 8:49 p.m. ET (approximate)
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg, and Steve Kerr

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My Pick: For the second game in a row, Kentucky faces a team it lost to in the regular season. UConn, naturally powered by Kemba Walker, routed the Wildcats in the Maui Invitational final back on November 24th. If that seems like light years ago, that's because it is in basketball terms. (Though the weather here in DC has been roughly the same this week as it was then.) Both teams have really grown late in the season, a fact that's reflected in their current win streaks--10 for the Wildcats and 9 for the Huskies. Again, this is another evenly matched contest, thanks to the amount of talent on both sides of the court. However, I think Kentucky has a bit more, so they should top Connecticut in this one. KenPom.com's projection is UK 70-68, over 64 possessions, which seems fairly accurate.

If both of those projections are right tonight, we're in for a truly great evening of basketball.

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