April 03, 2011 by
Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack have led Butler to back-to-back NCAA Tournament Championship Games.
What happens when you get a second crack at a “once in a lifetime” moment? Well, the Butler University Bulldogs will find out Monday night when the unlikeliest of super teams returns to the NCAA Championship Game for the second straight year.
Anyone who follows college basketball even a little knows that the Bulldogs went toe-to-toe with Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils in the 2010 title game and came a rimmed out half court shot away from claiming the national title.
Now, after defeating another mid-major Cinderella in VCU in the national semifinals, the Bulldogs are back on the main stage. This time they face the University of Connecticut and two-time national championship coach Jim Calhoun.
Interestingly, what both teams have in common is that for portions of the 2011 season both squads were looking more like they might meet in the NIT than in the NCAA Championship Game.
After a hot early start, Connecticut lost four of their final five regular season games and sank to the bottom half of the Big East standings. As a result, they had to win an unprecedented five games in five days to win the Big East Tournament.
At one point during the season Butler was 14-9 overall and 6-5 in conference play and didn’t look like they would have any shot at another run to the title game.
However, the Bulldogs won their final seven regular season games and then claimed the Horizon League Tournament title to secure a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.
While the Big East Tournament run by Connecticut raised their tournament seeding to a number three spot and got them some respect in bracket pools across the country, the Bulldogs didn’t have quite the same experience. Read the rest of this entry →
March 27, 2011 by
VCU has shouted loudly with their actions during the NCAA Tournament to reach the Final Four.
If Jay Bilas, Dick Vitale and the legion of other NCAA basketball “experts” we regularly see on television were in charge of selecting the NCAA Tournament field, the VCU Rams might be on their way to New York for the NIT Finals or getting back in the swing of classes after the end of basketball season. But fortunately, those “experts” are not in charge and instead the Rams are preparing for a trip to Houston for the first Final Four appearance in school history.
Given how bleak the experts believed the chances were for the Rams to make the field two weeks ago, the team didn’t even bother watching the selection show together. But within hours of the announcement they were on their way to Dayton and have been on an amazing trip ever since.
Following their dominating 71-61 victory over top seeded Kansas, the Rams are now the first team in NCAA Tournament history to advance to the Final Four after winning five tournament games. They did so by defeating teams from the Pac-10, Big East, Big Ten, ACC and Big 12 and winning four of those games by double digits.
Coupled with the Elite Eight victory by Butler, we are now guaranteed a team from a non “power” conference reaching the NCAA Championship Game for the third time in four years.
Both Butler a year ago and Memphis in 2008 fell just short, but given the lack of dominance by big conference schools in recent years you have to believe that 2011 could bring the first NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Champion from a non-power conference to cut down the nets since UNLV in 1990. Read the rest of this entry →
March 27, 2011 by
Head Coach Brad Stevens and the Butler Bulldogs are heading back to the Final Four.
Since the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, a school has reached the Final Four in consecutive years a total of 13 times. The list includes many of the usual suspects, Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina (twice), Michigan State (twice), Florida and UCLA among others. After their overtime victory Saturday night against Florida, the list now also includes the Butler Bulldogs.
As a private liberal arts school near Indianapolis with roughly 4,500 students (undergrad and graduate), Butler would seem to be an unlikely candidate to be known as a basketball powerhouse.
Yet, Butler is now clearly the poster child for a new era in college basketball where the gap in talent and ability between schools from the “power” conferences and the rest of college basketball is quickly shrinking.
Unlike the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, which was the first non-power conference school to reach consecutive Final Fours from 1990-1991, Butler is not creating success by separating the two words student and athlete.
Instead, Butler has created a culture of success on the court while maintaining a high level of academic success. Read the rest of this entry →
April 06, 2010 by
Gordon Hayward and Butler came up just short of winning the NCAA title.
While Duke University officially won the 2010 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship with a 61-59 victory over Butler University, there were truly no losers on the court.
Butler came up just short of their storybook ending, but the Bulldogs will forever live in basketball lore as the little team that played gloriously on the big stage.
Though neither Duke nor Butler has more than 8,000 undergraduate students, this was a battle of the big establishment of college basketball against an upstart program from a little conference.
Butler proved throughout the 2010 NCAA Tournament that they truly belonged with the “big boys” of college basketball.
That they nearly pulled off the shocking upset of perennial contender Duke illustrates that the gap between the “big boys” and the “little schools” in today’s college basketball is very minimal.
With two likely NBA players and a strong supporting cast, Butler’s team in 2010 was as legitimate a contender for the NCAA Championship as any squad in the country.
There have been higher scoring and perhaps better played NCAA title games, but the battle between Duke and Butler was a heavyweight fight in which neither team backed down.
The largest lead of the game was a six-point bulge by Duke in the first half (26-20) and in the second half the largest margin was only five points. Read the rest of this entry →