March 14, 2010

Butler To Face UTEP In NCAA Tournament

RETURN VISIT:  For the fourth consecutive year and for the seventh time in the past decade, Butler is competing in the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.  The Bulldogs, seeded No 5 in the West Region, will begin tournament play against No. 12 UTEP on Thursday, March 18, in San Jose, Calif.  UTEP (26-6), regular season champion of Conference USA, advanced to the national championship with an at-large bid.  The Bulldogs, ranked 12th in both the Associated Press (A.P.) and ESPN/USA Today national polls, assured themselves of a return trip to the national tournament by capturing the Horizon League’s automatic bid with a convincing 70-45 victory over Wright State in the title game of the 2010 Speedway Horizon League Men’s Basketball Championship.  Butler also captured the Horizon League’s automatic bid in 2008, while earning at-large bids to the national tournament in 2007 and 2009.  The four straight appearances are the most by a team from the Horizon League since former league member Xavier made six straight trips to the national championship, 1986-91.  Overall, Butler is making its tenth NCAA Tournament appearance, a record for current Horizon League members.  The Bulldogs reached the “Sweet 16” twice in the last eight years (2003 & 2007).      

Butler has six wins in its last five trips to the NCAA Tournament.

BONUS SEASON:  Butler has advanced to post-season tournament play for the 12th time in 14 years.  The Bulldogs earned bids to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship in 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009 and this season, and to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in 1999, 2002 and 2006.  Butler’s post-season record since 1997 is 10-11 (6-8 NCAA, 4-3 NIT).

TOP 20:  The Bulldogs, boasting a 20-win season for the fifth consecutive year and for the 12th time in the past 14 years, have the third-highest win total in school history with 28 victories.  Butler also won 20 regular season games for the sixth time in school history.  The Bulldogs are the only team in Horizon League history to record five or more consecutive 20-win seasons, and they’ve done it twice (1997-2003, 2006-2010)!

The Bulldogs have won at least 26 games in four consecutive seasons.

RECORD RUN:  Butler’s 113 wins over the past four seasons have set a school and Horizon League record for most wins in four consecutive years.  The Bulldogs also own the two-year (59, 2006-08) and three-year (85, 2006-09) records.

POLL NUMBERS:  Butler remained at No. 12 in the Associated Press (A.P.) national poll and slipped to No. 12 in the  ESPN/USA Today “Top 25,” prior to the Horizon League Tournament championship game.  The Bulldogs were ranked in both polls for the first seven weeks of the season and have been ranked in the ESPN/USA Today poll for 18 straight weeks.  Butler has been ranked in the “Top 25” each year since 2006-07.

LAST TIME OUT:  Butler left nothing to chance and finished its amazing run through the Horizon League with a 70-45 victory over Wright State in the title game of the Horizon League Tournament.  The top-seeded Bulldogs, who never trailed in the game, led by 14 points at halftime and stretched the margin to as many as 30 points late in the contest.  Butler hit 14 of its first 21 (.667) shots and finished the game with a .522 field goal percentage.  Butler head coach Brad Stevens was able to play all 15 Bulldogs in the game, with only senior Willie Veasley logging more than 30 minutes.  The 25-point final margin was the second-largest in Horizon League championship game history!                                      

The Bulldogs improved to 15-3 as a #1 seed in Horizon League Tournament play.

TOURNAMENT TESTED:  Junior Matt Howard shared Butler’s scoring lead against Wright State with 14 points, and he led the Bulldogs with nine rebounds.  That effort followed his game-high, 18-point performance against Milwaukee in the tournament semifinals, and made him the hands-down choice as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.  Howard earned All-Tournament recognition for the third straight year, becoming the first player to accomplish that feat since Detroit’s Rashad Phillips did it, 1999-2001.

Matt Howard has averaged 15.8 points in Butler’s last eight games.    
 
ALL-TOURNAMENT:  Butler’s dominant performance in the championship game of the Horizon League Tournament contributed to the Bulldogs having a league-record four players named to the five-player All-Tournament Team.  Tournament MVP Matt Howard led the way, and he was joined on the All-Tournament squad by teammates Shelvin Mack, Gordon Hayward and Ronald Nored.  Mack, who had 14 points in the championship game, made the All-Tournament team for the second straight year, while Hayward and Nored were first time picks.

DOUBLE TIME:  Sophomore Gordon Hayward, who missed Butler’s final regular season game with lower back pain, returned to the Bulldogs’ lineup in the Horizon League Tournament semifinals and finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds against Milwaukee.  It was his fifth consecutive double-double and the 15th double-double of his young Butler career.  The five consecutive double-doubles were the most by a Butler player since 1973-74, when Daryl Mason recorded six straight.  Hayward had eight points and four rebounds in the league championship game against Wright State.

Gordon Hayward led the Horizon League with 12 double-doubles this season.

POINT GUARD:  Sophomore Ronald Nored, who’s primary duty is to set the Bulldogs’ offense, averaged 11.0 points in Butler’s two wins at the league tournament.  He matched the second-highest point total of his young career with 13 points against Milwaukee in the semifinals and then posted nine points in the championship game.  Nored, who has averaged 7.3 points during Butler’s current winning streak, has had his top three career scoring performances in Butler’s last 11 games.

PERFECT FINISH:  With a win at Valparaiso in the final regular season game, Butler became just the fourth team in Horizon League history to finish with an unbeaten league record and the first to post an 18-0 mark!  Loyola was 5-0 in 1979-80, Xavier finished 14-0 in 1994-95 and Green Bay was 16-0 in 1995-96.  Butler’s six-game margin in the final standings was the largest in league history!

Butler is the only unbeaten conference champ in Division I this season.

TROPHY ROOM:  Butler won it’s sixth Horizon League Tournament title, matching former member Xavier for the most in league history.  No other league school has won more than three tournament crowns.
 
TOP CHOICE:  Sophomore Gordon Hayward, who leads the Bulldogs in scoring (15.4) and rebounding (8.5), became the fourth Butler player in five seasons to be named Horizon League Player of the Year.  He follows teammate Matt Howard (2008-09), Mike Green (2007-08) and Brandon Polk (2005-06) as recipient of the league’s top individual honor.  Hayward is the seventh Butler player all-time to be named Horizon League Player of the Year.
   
LEAGUE FIRST:  Butler’s success during the regular season translated into three Bulldogs being named first team All-Horizon League.  Junior Matt Howard and sophomore Gordon Hayward each earned first team recognition for the second straight year, while sophomore Shelvin Mack captured his initial first team honor  It was the first time one team had three players named to a five-player All-Horizon League first team.

BEST DEFENSE:  Sophomore Ronald Nored was named Horizon League Co-Defensive Player of the Year (with Detroit’s Woody Payne), and senior Willie Veasley joined him on the All-Defensive Team selected by league coaches.  The two have helped Butler to the No. 1 spot in the league in team scoring defense (60.6).

Butler had all five starters recognized on the All-League Team for the first time.    

GRAND EFFORT:  Junior Matt Howard became the 32nd Butler player to score 1,000 career points earlier this season.  His 14 points in the league championship game boosted his career scoring total to 1,285 points, good for 18th place on Butler’s all-time scoring list.  He trails Ted Guzek (1954-58) in 17th place by 26 points.

LEADING ROLE:  For the second straight year, Butler’s Brad Stevens was named Horizon League Coach of the Year.  The 33-year-old Stevens became the fifth coach in league history to capture the award in back-to-back years, following Pete Gillen of Xavier (1993-94), Barry Collier of Butler (1999-2000), Bruce Pearl of Milwaukee (2002-03) and Todd Lickliter of Butler (2006-07).  

FAST START:  Butler head coach Brad Stevens holds the No. 1 spot on the NCAA Division I list for Best Career Starts By Wins, 3 Seasons.  Stevens has 84 career wins in his brief career, two better than the previous record held by Mark Fox (Nevada) and Mark Few (Gonzaga).  The Butler coach boasts an .857 winning percentage.

Brad Stevens stands fifth all-time in Division I in three-year winning pct.

BULLDOG BITS:  

•The Bulldogs have tied Detroit in all-time Horizon League Tournament wins with 28.  All 28 wins have come in the last 19 years.

•Butler is the only school in the Horizon League to have won four consecutive regular season championships, and the Bulldogs have done it twice (2000-03, 2007-10).

•Butler was unbeaten in the months of January and February for the first time in school history.

•Matt Howard stands in second place on Butler’s all-time list for free throws made with 472.  He’s five free throws shy of the school record (477) set by Bobby Plump, 1954-58.

•Matt Howard is shooting .545 (79-145) during Butler’s current 19-game winning streak.

•Matt Howard leads the Horizon League in free throws made with 160, while teammate Gordon Hayward is second with 142.  Hayward is fifth in the league in free throw percentage (.830), while Howard is ninth (.808).

•Gordon Hayward was the lone Butler player named to the 2009-10 U. S. Basketball Writers Association All-District V Team.

•Gordon Hayward has moved into third place on the Butler’s all-time list for sophomore scoring with 477 points, passing teammate Matt Howard (475).

•Gordon Hayward has averaged a team-best 14.4 points during the squad’s current 19-game winning streak.  He’s shot .520 from the field and scored 20 or more points four times during the streak.

•Gordon Hayward ranks fifth in the Horizon League in scoring (15.4) and third in  rebounding (8.5).  He’s the lone player in the league to rank in the “Top 5” in both scoring and rebounding.

•Shelvin Mack has moved into eighth place on Butler’s list for sophomore season scoring with 444 points.  He trails Jeff Blue (1961-62) in seventh place by three points.  

•Butler is 24-4 when Shelvin Mack scores at least 14 points in a game, and 16-1 when he leads the team in scoring.

•Butler boasts three of the “Top 10” players in field goal pct. in the Horizon League.  Senior Willie Veasley ranks fourth (.509), junior Matt Howard is fifth (.500) and sophomore Gordon Hayward is seventh (.484).  Shelvin Mack ranks 15th in the league (.460).

•Junior Willie Veasley has scored in double-figures in six of his last eight games.  He’s averaged 13.3 points in the three games since missing the Siena contest with a sprained left knee.

•Willie Veasley was named to the 11th Annual All-Glue Team, selected by Seth Davis (SI.com), recognizing players who “do everything to win.”  The other four players chosen were David Lighty of Ohio State, Chris Kramer of Purdue, Reggie Redding of Villanova and Rick Jackson of Syracuse.

•Sophomore Ronald Nored, who had five assists in the Horizon League Tournament championship game, has averaged 4.3 assists/game during Butler’s 20-game winning streak.  Nored ranks second in the Horizon League in assist/turnover ratio (1.9), seventh in assists (3.6) and seventh in steals (1.6)

•Junior Zach Hahn, who hit three of four three-point field goal attempts in the Horizon League championship game, leads the League in three-point field goal shooting (.434).  Hahn has shot .471 (32-68) from the three-point arc during Butler’s 20-game winning streak.

•The Bulldogs, who lead the Horizon League in team scoring defense (60.0), have held seven of their last eight foes below 60 points.

•Butler has won its last 22 games when hitting at least nine three-point field goals.  The Bulldogs, who hit nine three-pointers against Wright State in the league championship title game, are 39-1 under head coach Brad Stevens when hitting nine or more three-pointers in a game.

•The Bulldogs are tied for sixth in the NCAA Division I in won-lost percentage (.875).  Butler is tied for seventh in the nation in total wins (28).

•Butler leads the nation (NCAA Division I) in road victories with a 12-1 mark this season.