Thursday, March 31, 2011

Road To Houston: Butler

They were supposed to be a one year wonder. Maybe if Gordon Heyward had returned they would have a shot at a somewhat close repeat performance. But, Heyward left. Butler, last years darling, was forgotten. Until now. Brad Stevens has coached The Bulldogs back to the Final Four to finish the job from last year. No Heyward, no problem. Offense wins games, and Butler's defense can easily win a championship this year. With Butler, nothing was every pretty. The regular season was rough, the wins in the tournament. Nonetheless, here they are.
Butler started off 1-1, with a loss to Louisville. Three games later they lost to Evansville in OT. They grabbed 1 more win, and then dropped 2 more games to Duke and Xavier. The Bulldogs did eventually start winning. But, more trouble followed. At one point they dropped 3 straight games in horizon League play. This is when Brad Stevens had his Butler team look in the mirror, and the guys did not like what they saw. The Bulldogs have not lost a game since Feb, 3rd. They rapped off 9 straight conference wins. Won the Horizon League Tournament, and earned a #8 seed. They then started their run back to the Final Four. They beat ODU by 2 on a buzzer beater put back. They took down #1 seed Pittsburgh by 1. Topped Wisconsin by 7, and defeated #2 seed Florida by 3 in Overtime.
The 2 most significant roll players for Butler last year, have emerged as big stars this year in the tournament. Shelvin Mack lit up Pittsburgh for 30 points, and had 27 against Florida. Matt Howard has been playing the best defense of anyone on the team, and had 20, 12 game for The Bulldogs against Wisconsin. Another guy who has been noteworthy is Ronald Norad. He is the lockdown defender for Butler, and has been doing a superb job of locking down on opposing teams best players.
The question is, can Butler's defense contain a team that has been shooting the lights out from 3 in VCU? The key matchup in this game is inside, as Matt Howard will be going up against Jamie Skeen, who was fantastic last week. He dumped 26 points on the Morris twins. The coaching matchup in this one is great as well. Two young coaches, who have taken the national spotlight by storm.-Josh Neighbors

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