BUTLER TO FACE UCONN FOR NATIONAL TITLE
TITLE SHOT: For the second consecutive year, Butler has advanced to the title game of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship. The Bulldogs will square off against Connecticut on Monday, April 4, at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, for the national championship trophy. The game is scheduled for a 9:23 p.m. (ET) tip and will be broadcast to a national audience on CBS. Butler (28-9) completed its run to this year's national championship game with a 70-62 victory over VCU in the national semifinals on Saturday. UConn (31-9) reached the national championship game for the first time since 2004 with a 56-55 victory over Kentucky in the second semifinal on Saturday. The two national finalists will be meeting for the first time. Butler advanced to the national title game a year ago in Indianapolis, before falling to Duke, 61-59.
Butler is 10-1 in its last 11 NCAA Tournament games.
TOURNAMENT TESTED: The Bulldogs return three players who were in Butler's starting lineup in last year's NCAA national championship game. Current starters Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack, plus top reserve Ronald Nored, all were starters against Duke in last year's title game. Also boasting experience from last year's championship game are seniors Shawn Vanzant and Zach Hahn and sophomore Andrew Smith. Howard, Vanzant and Hahn each have played in 14 career NCAA tournament games, while Mack and Nored have played in 12 NCAA games.
CLOSING RUN: 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 14 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.
The Bulldogs' 14- game winning streak is the third-longest in school history.
RETURN VISIT: Butler is the first national runner-up to return to the national championship game since Duke did it in 1991. The Blue Devils lost to UNLV in 1990, before coming back to defeat Kansas for the title in 1991.
LAST TIME OUT: The Bulldogs used a 9-2 run in the final minute of the contest to pull away from VCU in the national semifinals on Saturday. Butler held a 61-57 lead heading into the final 60 seconds, but a lay-up and a pair of free throws by senior Matt Howard and two charity tosses by senior Shawn Vanzant stretched the margin to 10 points, 67-57, with 0:35 left. The Bulldogs took their biggest lead of the game at 70-59 on a free throw by Shelvin Mack with 20 seconds left, before a late three-point field goal by VCU settled the final score at 70-62. Butler took the lead for good at 44-43 on a lay-up by senior Zach Hahn, but didn't have more than a seven-point advantage until the final minute.
The Bulldogs' eight-point win over VCU was Butler's largest margin of victory in this year's tournament.
PRIME TIME: Junior Shelvin Mack added to an already strong resume in this year's NCAA Tournament with a team-high 24 points and six rebounds against VCU. The 6-3 Butler guard matched the best long-range shooting performance by a Butler player this season by hitting five of six attempts from beyond the three-point arc. Earlier this year, senior Matt Howard hit five of six three-pointers in a win at Detroit. Mack scored 13 points in the first half to help Butler to a 34-28 halftime lead, and then he added 11 more in the final period to help secure the win.
Shelvin Mack has averaged 21.8 points in Butler's five NCAA Tournament games.
MINUTE MADE: Senior Zach Hahn came off the bench in the second half and hit back-to-back three-point field goals in a 30-second stretch to give Butler a 42-41 lead over VCU. He added a lay-up a minute later to give the Bulldogs the lead for good, 44-43. The eight points were the most by Hahn in NCAA Tournament play since last year's opening round, when he came off the bench with nine points in a victory over UTEP.
CHARITABLE WORK: Senior Matt Howard managed just three field goals against VCU, but the 6-8 forward connected on 11 of 12 shots from the free throw line and finished with 17 points in the victory. The 11 free throws made were an NCAA Tournament career best for Howard, who previously had hit 10 free throws against LSU in the 2009 NCAA Tournament. Howard is Butler's all-time leader for free throws made in NCAA Tournament play with 65 in 14 career tournament games.
SENIOR MOMENT: Senior guard Shawn Vanzant posted his second double-figures scoring performance in three games with 11 points against VCU on Saturday. The 6-0 guard had just two points in the first 33 minutes of the game, but he helped secure the victory by scoring nine points in the final 6:37 of the contest. The 11 points were the most he's scored in 14 career NCAA Tournament games. Vanzant added four rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot, while contributing a strong defensive performance in the win.
BOARDING PASS: The Bulldogs had a commanding 48-32 advantage in rebounding over VCU, including a 16-6 edge in offensive rebounds. That work on the offensive boards led to a 19-6 advantage in second chance points. Freshman Khyle Marshall came off the bench with nine rebounds to lead Butler's assault on the boards, while senior Matt Howard added eight caroms. Five different Butler players had at least six rebounds in the win. It was the second consecutive game that the Bulldogs pulled down at least 40 rebounds.
Butler's 48 rebounds against VCU were a season-high by the Bulldogs this year.
FRIENDLY FOES: UConn's Kemba Walker and Butler's Shelvin Mack were teammates on the USA Basketball Select Team chosen to train against the 2010 U.S. Men's National Team in Las Vegas and New York last summer.
WIN COLUMN: The Bulldogs climbed another rung on Butler's list of top season win totals with the victory over VCU. The team's 28 wins this season are the fourth-most in Butler basketball history, one victory shy of the 2006-07 team in third place on the all-time list. Head coach Brad Stevens has led the Bulldogs to three of Butler's top four all-time win totals, including the school-record 33 victories recorded by last year's national runner-up squad.
•Butler is the third No. 8 seed to reach the national championship game. The last was Villanova in 1985.
•The Bulldogs improved to 6-0 in NCAA Tournament play as the higher seeded team with their victory over VCU.
•Butler head coach Brad Stevens is the youngest coach (34) to reach his second national championship game.
•Brad Stevens, in his fourth season as a head coach, has recorded more NCAA Tournament wins (11) than all other coaches in Butler and Horizon League history.
•Matt Howard has started a Butler record 14 NCAA Tournament games. He's the Butler career record-holder for games played (140) and games started (132).
•Matt Howard stands second on Butler's all-time list for NCAA Tournament scoring with 165 points in 14 tournament games.
•Matt Howard received the 2011 Lou Henson Award on Friday (April 1). The award is presented annually to the top Mid-Major player in the NCAA Division I.
•Matt Howard became the first player in Butler basketball history to grab 50 rebounds in NCAA Tournament play. The 6-8 Butler senior has 77 in 14 tournament games.
•Matt Howard has scored in double-figures in his last six NCAA Tournament games.
•Shelvin Mack became the first player in Butler basketball history to score 200 points in NCAA Tournament play. Mack has tallied 219 points in 12 previous NCAA contests.
•Shelvin Mack has set a Butler NCAA Tournament record for three-point field goals with 19 in the Bulldogs' five games. The previous mark was 17, set by the junior guard a year ago. Mack has hit a Butler record 39 three-point field goals in 12 NCAA Tournament games.
•Shelvin Mack broke the Butler NCAA Tournament record of 31 field goals, set by Gordon Hayward in six games last year. Mack has 35 field goals in Butler's five tournament games this 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 17 points to reach the "Top 10" on Butler's all-time scoring list. He enters this year's national championship game with 1,514 career points.
•Butler's senior class of Matt Howard, Shawn Vanzant, Zach Hahn, Grant Leiendecker and Alex Anglin have compiled 117 career victories. The school record is 118 wins, set by last year's senior duo of Willie Veasley and Nick Rodgers.
•Butler is the first non-BCS school to reach the back-to-back national championship games since Cincinnati did it in 1961 and 1962.
•Butler has held six of its last 11 foes under 60 points. The Bulldogs have won 31 of their last 32 games when yielding fewer than 60 points.
•The Bulldogs are 9-1 on neutral courts this season, with the lone setback coming to #1-ranked Duke. Butler is 20-7 on neutral courts under head coach Brad Stevens.
•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.
•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 nine of its last 10 NCAA Tournament wins.
•Butler has posted back-to-back seasons of at least 28 wins for the second time in school history. Previously, the Bulldogs finished 29-7 in 2006-07 and 30-4 in 2007-08.
•The Bulldogs have set a school record for best two-year win total with 61 victories over the past two seasons.
•Butler has reached the national championship game, despite being unranked in the final college basketball polls. The last team to do that was Kansas in 1988.