I had a 30-minute phone conversation with Jay Bilas late Wednesday. A Charlotte resident since 1993, Bilas had just arrived in Houston and was getting ready to cover the Final Four for ESPN.
Bilas has been getting a lot of heat lately -- most of it good-natured -- from everyone associated with Virginia Commonwealth because he railed against VCU's selection into the NCAA tournament field so strongly on Selection Sunday. VCU coach Shaka Smart wondered aloud after one Rams' NCAA tourney win if Bilas had watched the game. Bilas has tweeted that crow actually tastes a lot like eating chicken (although he still firmly believes VCU should have never made the field).
VCU, of course, is in the Final Four, where it will face Butler. UConn and Kentucky will play in the other, far more traditional semifinal. (My column on why I really hope Butler or VCU wins the whole thing can be found here).
I'll be writing a column later this week on Bilas, whose combination of thoughtfulness and humor makes him the best studio analyst in college basketball. But I went ahead and got his picks for the Final Four, and here they are. Again, VCU fans will be irritated.
Semifinal 1: Butler over VCU. Bilas said while VCU has played better to this point, Butler is an expert at slowing the game down and will "squeak one out."
Semifinal 2: UConn over Kentucky.
Final: UConn over Butler.
Much more from Bilas to come later this week, but he says of this Final Four: "If you played it four different times, you really could have four different champions. There just is not a single great team in college basketball this season, which is going to make this one a blast."