Bulldogs Begin Horizon League Tournament Title Defense
TOURNAMENT TIME: Top-seeded Butler will begin its quest for a second consecutive Horizon League Tournament championship when it hosts the quarterfinals and semifinals of the league tournament on Friday and Saturday, March 6-7. The Bulldogs will begin play in the tournament semifinals on Saturday (March 7) at 7 p.m. (ET) against the winner of the quarterfinals match between #4 Wright State (19-12) and #5 Milwaukee (17-13). The game will be nationally-televised on ESPNU. The other semifinals game will pit #2 Green Bay (22-9) against the winner of Friday's quarterfinals game between #3 Cleveland State (22-10) and #7 UIC (16-14). Butler (25-4, 15-3 HL) earned the #1 seed and the right to host the championship by finishing first in the regular season race. The Bulldogs closed out their league-high eighth regular season crown with back-to-back wins over Youngstown State, 78-57, and Cleveland State, 58-56.
Butler is playing in the league tournament semifinals for the 11th time in the past 13 years.
IN THE HOUSE: Butler is 14-1 in Hinkle Fieldhouse this season, and the Bulldogs have won 18 of their last 19 home games. The Bulldogs boast wins in 56 of their last 61 contests in the Fieldhouse, including 34 of their last 36 Horizon League games. Butler is 124-16 (.886) at home since 1999-00.
POLL WATCH: Butler is ranked in the "Top 25" in both the Associated Press (A.P.) and ESPN/USA Today national polls for the ninth consecutive week. The Bulldogs, ranked as high as No. 11 this season, currently stand at No. 22 in both the A.P. poll and the ESPN/USA Today poll, following last weekend's back-to-back wins. Butler was ranked in both national polls for a school- and Horizon League-record 19 consecutive weeks last year, and the Bulldogs have been ranked for 29 weeks under second-year head coach Brad Stevens.
20-PLUS: Butler has posted its 11th 20-win season in the past 13 years and its fourth consecutive. The Bulldogs have won at least 25 games in three straight seasons.
LAST TIME OUT: Freshman Ronald Nored converted a rebound into a lay-up with just under a minute remaining to give Butler a one-point lead, and he later added a free throw with 0:16 left for the final two-point margin in Butler's title-clinching victory over Cleveland State. Butler led by 10 points, 50-40, with under 10 minutes remaining, but the Vikings unleashed a 12-0 run to grab their first lead of the second half with 4:46 left on the clock. Butler tied the game twice, before eventually grabbing the lead back on Nored's clutch basket. The victory gave Butler its third consecutive Horizon League regular season championship.
Butler has won seven Horizon League regular season titles in the past decade.
CAREER EFFORT: With scoring leaders Matt Howard, Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack all held below their season averages, junior Willie Veasley and freshman Ronald Nored stepped up to lead the Bulldogs past Cleveland State. Veasley scored a career-high 16 points on six of 12 shooting from the field to pace the Bulldogs. He also grabbed seven rebounds, while playing a career-high 39 minutes. Nored made all four shots that he attempted and finished with a career-high 11 points. The two players accounted for all three of Butler's three-point field goals against Cleveland State.
Willie Veasley has averaged 12.0 points and 6.2 rebounds in Butler's last five games.
OFF THE GLASS: Led by 6-3 guard Shelvin Mack, the Bulldogs out-rebounded Cleveland State, 30-28. Mack tied his career-high with eight rebounds in the game, matching Cleveland State's J'Nathan Bullock for game-high honors. The Bulldogs have out-rebounded their last three opponents, five of their last six and 19 foes on the year, and lead the Horizon League in rebounding margin (+3.2). The last time Butler out-rebounded its opponents on the season was 1999-00, which also was the last year the Bulldogs led the league in rebounding.
SHORT AND SWEET: The Bulldogs shot a season-best .561 (23-41) against Cleveland State, despite matching their worst shooting performance of the year from the three-point arc (3-16)! Butler hit 20 of 25 (80%) shots from inside the three-point line, missing just two two-point attempts in the first half. All five Butler starters shot at least 50% from the field against Cleveland State.
Butler has shot .478 (119-249) over the past five games. During that stretch, the Bulldogs have shot just .258 (24-93) from beyond the three-point arc.
TOP DOG: Butler sophomore Matt Howard became the third Butler player in the past four seasons to be named Horizon League Player of the Year. He further was named first team All-League and was picked to the league's five-player All-Defensive team. The 6-8 forward currently ranks fourth in the league in scoring (14.3), third in rebounding (6.9) and second in blocked shots (1.6). He leads the league in field goal shooting (.552). Howard follows former teammate Mike Green (2007-08) and Brandon Polk (2005-06) as recent Butler players to be named league Player of the Year. Last season, Howard was named Horizon League Newcomer of the Year and chosen second team All-League.
Matt Howard is the sixth player in league history win Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year honors.
NEW TALENT: Freshman Gordon Hayward capped off his first regular season with the Bulldogs by being named Horizon League Newcomer of the Year. The first-year forward, who also was named first team All-League, leads all Horizon League newcomers in scoring (13.8) and rebounding (6.3), and he ranks among the league's top six players overall in both categories. He's the third consecutive Butler player to be named league Newcomer of the Year, following Mike Green (2006-07) and Matt Howard (2007-08), marking the first time a school has won the league honor in three consecutive seasons. Hayward is the first freshman to be named league Newcomer of the Year since 1995-96, when T. J. Lux of Northern Illinois captured the honor, and just the second Butler freshman to be named first team All- Horizon League, following Tony Warren in 1979-80.
CLASS OF ONE: Butler's Gordon Hayward is the only player in the Horizon League who ranks in the "Top 10" in the ten different statistical categories! He's sixth in scoring (13.8), fifth in rebounding (6.3), fourth in field goal shooting (.488), second in 3-point field goal shooting (.454), fourth in free throw shooting (.825), tied for fourth in 3-point field goals (2.2), seventh in steals (1.6), sixth in blocked shots (1.0), fourth in defensive rebounds (4.9) and seventh in minutes played (32.3).
ALL-DISTRICT: Butler's duo of Matt Howard and Gordon Hayward were among 10 players named to the All-Distict 12 team, chosen by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Howard was named first team, along with Ben Woodside of North Dakota State, Ryan Tillema of Green Bay, J'Nathan Bullock of Cleveland State and Erik Kangas of Oakland. Hayward was picked second team, along with Brett Winkelman of North Dakota State, Josh Mayo of UIC, Todd Brown of Wright State and Robert Jarvis of Oral Roberts.
QUICK STUDY: Butler head coach Brad Stevens has moved into a tie for the No. 2 spot on the NCAA Division I list for Best Career Coaching Starts-Two Seasons with his 55-8 career record. Bill Guthridge of North Carolina holds the top spot with a 58-14 record from 1998 to 1999, while Everett Case was 55-8 in his first two seasons (1947-48) at North Carolina State. The No. 4 spot on the list is Stevens' former boss, Todd Lickliter, who was 53-12 in his first two seasons at Butler, 2002-03!
COACHING RECOGNITION: Brad Stevens, 2008-09 Horizon League Coach of the Year, has been announced as a finalist for several national Coach of the Year awards. He's one of 10 finalists for the 2009 Henry Iba Award, presented to the national coach of the year by the U. S. Basketball Writers Association and one of 10 finalists for the Jim Phelan Award, given to the national coach of the year by CollegeInsider.com. He's also one of 10 finalists for the Hugh Durham Award, presented by CollegeInsider.com to the Mid-Major Coach of the Year. Stevens received the mid-season Durham Award.
SMART PICK: Matt Howard was one of 15 NCAA Division I basketball players named to the 2008-09 ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-America Team. Howard, a finance major with a 3.727 grade point average, was picked second team on the honor squad and was the lone sophomore among the 15 players chosen. He is Butler's third Academic All-American in the past two seasons, joining former teammates A. J. Graves (second team) and Drew Streicher (third team) who were honored last year.
•Butler is ranked second behind Gonzaga in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25. The Bulldogs had held the top spot for five consecutive weeks, Jan. 12-Feb. 16.
•The Bulldogs are the third team in Horizon League history to win 15 league games. Green Bay's 1995-96 squad and last year's Butler team both won a league-record 16 games.
•Butler sophomore Matt Howard was named to the Midseason Top 30 candidates list for the John R. Wooden Award, presented to the nation's best player by the Los Angeles Athletic Club.
•Matt Howard, who's shooting .629 (39-62) over Butler's last five games, leads the Horizon League in field goal shooting (.552). Howard finished third in the league in FG% (.583) last year.
•Matt Howard leads the Bulldogs in scoring at home this season with a 15.4 average. He's shooting .633 in Hinkle Fieldhouse, and he's shot at a .750 (33-44) clip in Butler's last four home games.
•Matt Howard currently stands fifth on Butler's list for career field goal shooting. The 6-8 sophomore is shooting .567 (274-483) over his first two seasons.
•Matt Howard ranks second in the Horizon League in blocked shots (1.6) and third in offensive rebounds (2.6).
•Junior Willie Veasley has averaged 12.0 points in Butler's last five games.
•Shelvin Mack is the third freshman in Butler history to record 100 assists. Darrin Fitzgerald had 117 assists as a freshman in 1983-84, while Tim Bowen record 168 assists in his first season in 1990-91.
•Freshman Ronald Nored has averaged 6.6 points and is shooting .571 from the field over Butler's last five games. Two of his three career double-figures scoring performances have come in the last five games.
•Butler continues to lead the Horizon League in scoring margin (+10.9). The Bulldogs are second in the league in scoring offense (68.3) and in scoring defense (57.4).
•The Bulldogs are leading the league in field goal percentage defense (.379) and three-point field goal percentage defense (.308).
•Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack continue to climb Butler's all-time freshman scoring list. Hayward stands in third place with 399 points, while Mack is seventh with 339. Butler's freshman scoring record is 476 points by Tony Warren in 1979-80. Hayward and Mack are the top-scoring freshmen in the Horizon League.
•Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored have set a Butler freshman record for games started. Each has started 29 games this season, breaking the previous mark of 28 held by Tim Bowen (89-90) and Rylan Hainje (1998-99).
•Butler leads the Horizon League in three-point field goals
(8.3). The Bulldogs are 14-0 this season when hitting at least nine
three-point field goals in a game.