Final Four: Don’t dare call these contenders ‘Cinderellas’

Shaka Smart’s Rams are just the third 11-seed to make the Final Four and the first since George Mason in 2006.

Sometime earlier this month, both Butler and VCU swapped glass slippers for steel-toed boots. And they’ve both used them to stomp higher seeds.

Five years ago, when George Mason became just the second 11th-seed to make the Final Four, it was cute. Now, these lower seeds are just scary.

The Bulldogs and Rams may not have the first-team All-Americans, but they’ve been able to offset opposing superstars then flat outwork the other team’s role players.

“You can usually tell who can really recruit, what programs do the best jobs recruiting because they’re playing with the guys that you look at them … and think, ‘how in the world did they get them?’” Kansas coach Bill Self said after a stunning exit in the Elite Eight. “And so VCU’s program has done that, Butler’s program has done that.

“Their players could play for us any day. If we played shirts and skins today you wouldn’t have much of a difference on players or how they look. … They certainly outplayed us.”

VCU and Butler have more in common than just a date in the national semifinal. Both schools are riding clutch shooting and hot streaks, combining for 18 straight wins. That’s the formula for success in March. It doesn’t matter what conference you come from, hot is hot.

“We made history here, winning five games, going to the Final Four,” VCU coach Shaka Smart said. “We’re not done yet.”


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