April 1, 2011

Butler Meets VCU In National Semifinals

BACK-TO-BACK:  The basketball experts around the country speculating on who would this year’s “Butler” in the NCAA Tournament overlooked the obvious.  Butler will make its second consecutive appearance in the national semifinals of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship when it faces Virginia Commonwealth on Saturday, April 2, at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas.  The game will tip at 6:09 p.m. (ET) and will be televised nationally on CBS.  The No. 8-seeded Bulldogs (27-9), who made a storied run to the national championship game a year ago, are the lone team to return from last year’s Final Four.  VCU (28-11) is making its first NCAA Final Four appearance and has done it in eye-opening fashion.  The No. 11-seeded Rams have won five straight games in the tournament by an average of 12.0 points!  No. 3 Connecticut will meet No. 4 Kentucky in the other semifinals’ game for the right to play the the Butler-VCU winner for the national title on Monday, April 4.            

Butler is 9-1 in its last ten NCAA Tournament games.

CLOSING STRETCH:  On Feb. 4, Butler stood at 14-9 overall and was tied for fifth place in the Horizon League with a 6-5 record.  Since then, the Bulldogs have won 13 consecutive games, tied for the Horizon League regular season championship, won the Horizon League Tournament title with victories over the other two regular season league champs and captured a second straight NCAA regional championship.

TOURNAMENT EXPERIENCE:  Three players who were in Butler’s starting lineup in last year’s NCAA national championship game return this season.  Current starters Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack, plus top reserve Ronald Nored, all were starters against Duke in last year’s title game.  Three additional players who saw action in last year’s final game - seniors Shawn Vanzant and Zach Hahn and sophomore Andrew Smith - also return for the Bulldogs.  The six players combined for 35 points in last year’s national title game.  Howard, Vanzant and Hahn each have played in 13 NCAA tournament games, while Mack and Nored have played in 11.  

Butler’s Shelvin Mack was named to the All-Tournament Team at last year’s Final Four.

REGIONAL CHAMPS:  The Bulldogs defeated two higher-seeded team to capture the Southeast Regional championship in New Orleans, La.  Butler knocked off No. 4 seed Wisconsin, 61-54, behind the 20-point, 12-rebound performance of senior Matt Howard, and then dispatched No. 2 seed Florida, 74-71 in overtime, in the regional title game.  Junior Shelvin Mack paced the Bulldogs against Florida with a game-high 27 points.  Butler reached the regional round with victories over Old Dominion, 60-58, in the second round of the tournament and top-seeded Pittsburgh, 71-70, in the third round.

The Bulldogs’ four tournament wins have come by a total of 13 points.

SOWING SEEDS:  With the victories over top-seeded Pittsburgh and second-seeded Florida in the Southeast Regional, Butler became the first team in NCAA Tournament history to defeat both a No. 1 and a No. 2 seed before the Final Four in consecutive years.   A year ago, Butler beat top-seeded Syracuse in the West Regional semifinals and then upended No. 2 seed Kansas State in the regional championship to earn its first trip to the Final Four.

STREAKS:  The Bulldogs have won 13 consecutive games, including six straight tournament games (two Horizon League, four NCAA).  Butler has won 12 straight games in March, dating back to 2009.

CLOSE CALLS:  Butler is the tenth team in NCAA Tournament history to win at least three games by three or fewer points in a single tournament.  Only one team (North Carolina State, 1983) has won four games by three or fewer points.

SEEING DOUBLE:  Senior Matt Howard tied Butler’s single game NCAA Tournament record for most rebounds with 12 against Wisconsin.  It was his first double-figures rebounding performance in NCAA Tournament play and the 20th time in his Butler career that he’s reached twin-digits in rebounds.  He also scored in double-figures in both regional games in New Orleans, boosting his NCAA career total for double-figures scoring performances to eight and his overall career total to 103

ELITE HONOR:  Butler senior Matt Howard received the Elite 88 Award for the 2011 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship on Thursday (March 31) at the Men’s Final Four Salute Dinner.  The Elite 88 Award is presented to a student-athlete who has reached the pinnacle of competition at the national championship level in his or her sport, while also achieving the highest academic standard among his or her peers.  Howard, a three-time NCAA Division I Academic All-American and the 2010-11 Academic All-American of the Year, received the Elite 88 Award for the second consecutive year.  The Butler senior boasts a 3.769 grade point average with a double-major in finance and management information systems.

NATIONAL RECOGNITION:  Three Butler players were recognized on All-America teams chosen by CollegeInsider.com.  Senior Matt Howard and junior Shelvin Mack both were named to the 2011 Lou Henson All-America Team.  The two were among 25 players named to the honor squad.  And junior Ronald Nored was picked to the 2011 Lefty Driesell Defensive All-America Team.  Nored was named Horizon League Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2009-10.

HOME SCENE:  While the Bulldogs are preparing for their second consecutive national semifinals appearance, Butler’s campus will be immersed in Final Four fever.  A Butler pep rally, featuring Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, Butler President Bobby Fong, Butler mascot Hink and other, will be held on campus at noon on Blue & White Friday (April 1).  On Saturday (April 2), the Bulldogs Dancing in the Streets Fair, will be held on Hampton Drive, 4-5:30 p.m., followed by a viewing party in Hinkle Fieldhouse for the Butler-VCU game. 

BULLDOG BITS:

•Butler is the first school from outside a BCS conference to make consecutive Final Fours since UNLV in 1990 & 1991.

•Butler is 5-0 in NCAA Tournament play as the higher seeded team.

•Butler head coach Brad Stevens is the youngest coach (34) to reach his second Final Four.

•Brad Stevens, in his fourth season as a head coach, has recorded more NCAA Tournament wins (10) than all other coaches in Butler and Horizon League history.

•Matt Howard has started a Butler record 13 NCAA Tournament games.  He’s the Butler career record-holder for games played (139) and games started (131).

•Matt Howard stands second on Butler’s all-time list for NCAA Tournament scoring with 148 points in 13 tournament games.

•Matt Howard, who didn’t attempt a three-point field goal in his first three trips to the NCAA Tournament, has connected on eight three-pointers in Butler’s first four tournament games this year.  

•Matt Howard is the first player in Butler basketball history to grab 50 rebounds in NCAA Tournament play.  The 6-8 Butler senior has 69 in 13 tournament games.

•Matt Howard has scored in double-figures in his last five NCAA Tournament games.

•Shelvin Mack is bidding to become the first player in Butler basketball history to score 200 points in NCAA Tournament play.  Mack has tallied 195 points in 11 previous NCAA contests.

•Shelvin Mack needs three three-point field goals to tie his own Butler NCAA Tournament (17) record for three-pointers.  He has hit a Butler record 34 three-point field goals in 11 NCAA Tournament games.

•Shelvin Mack attempted a Butler NCAA Tournament record 13 three-point field goals in the Bulldogs’ victory over Florida.

•Shelvin Mack needs four field goals to tie Butler’s NCAA Tournament record of 31 field goals, set by Gordon Hayward in six games last year.

•Shelvin Mack is the first player in Butler basketball history to score 30 points in NCAA Tournament play.  He’s also the only player in school history to have multiple NCAA Tournament games of 25 or more points (3).

•Shelvin Mack needs 41 points to reach the “Top 10” on Butler’s all-time scoring list.  He enters this year’s Final Four with 1,490 career points.

•Butler’s 33 three-point field goal attempts against Florida were a school NCAA Tournament record.

•The Bulldogs had a Butler NCAA tournament single game record four blocked shots in their victory over Florida.

•Butler has held six of its last 10 foes under 60 points.  The Bulldogs have won 31 of their last 32 games when yielding fewer than 60 points.

•The Bulldogs are 8-1 on neutral courts this season, with the lone setback coming to #1-ranked Duke.  Butler is 19-7 on neutral courts under head coach Brad Stevens.

•Butler is one of 11 schools to reach the Final Four in consecutive years since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.  The others are Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State, Maryland, Kansas, North Carolina, Florida, UCLA, Michigan and UNLV.

•Butler is the first team to reach consecutive Final Fours and not be seeded No. 1 or No. 2 in either appearance.

•Butler has trailed in the second half of eight of its last nine NCAA Tournament wins.

•Butler has posted back-to-back seasons of at least 27 wins for the second time in school history.  Previously, the Bulldogs finished 29-7 in 2006-07 and 30-4 in 2007-08.

•Last year, Butler traveled 6.1 miles to the Final Four at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, This year, the Bulldogs will travel 1,029 miles to Reliant Stadium.

•The Bulldogs have set a school record for best two-year win total with 60 victories over the past two seasons.