TITLE TILT: The tournament crown and an automatic berth in the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship will be on the line when top-seeded Butler hosts #3 Cleveland State in the title game of the 2009 Speedway Horizon League Men's Basketball Championship on Tuesday, March 11. The 9 p.m. (ET) contest at Hinkle Fieldhouse will be a rematch of last year's Horizon League championship game and will be televised nationally on ESPN. Butler (26-4) advanced to the title game for the fourth straight year and for the 11th time overall with a 62-57 victory over #4 Wright State in the tournament semifinals. Cleveland State (24-10) rallied from a 12-point deficit to defeat second-seeded Green Bay, 73-67, in the other semifinals' contest. The Bulldogs defeated Cleveland State, 70-55, in last year's Horizon League title game and earned their league-best eighth trip to the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship.
Butler owns more Horizon League Tournament titles (5) than any other active league member.
IN THE HOUSE: Butler is 15-1 in Hinkle Fieldhouse this season, and the Bulldogs have won 19 of their last 20 home games. The Bulldogs boast wins in 57 of their last 62 contests in the Fieldhouse, including a 37-2 mark against Horizon League foes. Butler is 125-16 (.887) 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 10th consecutive week. The Bulldogs, ranked as high as No. 11 this season, currently stand at No. 16 in the A.P. poll and No. 17 in the ESPN/USA Today poll, following last weekend's Horizon League Tournament win. 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 in at least one poll for 30 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 26 games in three straight seasons.
LAST TIME OUT: The Bulldogs didn't score a field goal in the final 7:56 of the game but held on to defeat Wright State, 62-57, in the semifinals of the Horizon League Championship. Freshman Shelvin Mack connected on a three-point field goal with 7:57 left to give Butler its biggest lead of the contest, 53-42. That turned out to be the Bulldogs' last basket of the game. Butler's final nine points came at the charity stripe, including six by sophomore Matt Howard. Wright State closed to within two points, 58-56, with 1:14 left, but the Bulldogs converted four of six free throw attempts down the stretch to hang on to the victory. Butler led by four points, 32-28, at halftime and never trailed in the second half.
Butler is 13-2 all-time as a #1 seed in Horizon League Tournament play.
FREE WORK: Like a high-quality watch, Butler sophomore Matt Howard takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Two Wright State post players fouled out trying to contain Howard in the Horizon League semifinals, and the Butler forward went to the free throw line a career-high 15 times in the Bulldogs' win. Howard converted a career-best 14 free throws against the Raiders on his way to a game-high 24 points. He hit all seven free throws that he attempted in the first half and then nailed seven of eight in the final period. His 14 free throws were two shy of the Horizon League Tournament record, set by Willie Green against Loyola in 2003.
Matt Howard currently stands sixth on Butler's single season chart for free throws made with 161.
RESERVE POWER: Sophomore Zach Hahn came off the bench and sparked the Bulldogs against Wright State with 11 points on four of six shooting from the field. The 6-1 guard hit three three-point field goals in the first half to help the Bulldogs grab an early lead, and then he added two more points in the final period. Hahn's effort came one month after he scored a career-high 17 points in Butler's regular season win at Wright State.
DISTANCE SHORTAGE: The Bulldogs, who lead the Horizon League in three-point field goals, hit just four long-range shots in their victory over Wright State. It was the sixth straight game that Butler has had seven or fewer three-point field goals. The Bulldogs hit just three three-point field goals in their final regular season victory over Cleveland State, while shooting 80% (20-25) on two-point field goals!
Butler is 14-0 this season when hitting at least nine three-point field goals.
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 (13.4), fifth in rebounding (6.4), fourth in field goal shooting (.486), second in 3-point field goal shooting (.451), fifth in free throw shooting (.815), fifth in 3-point field goals (2.1), sixth in steals (1.6), sixth in blocked shots (1.0), third in defensive rebounds (5.0) and eighth 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 the No. 2 spot on the NCAA Division I list for Best Career Coaching Starts-Two Seasons with his 56-8 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, who was named 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 .608 (59-97) over Butler's last 10 games, leads the Horizon League in field goal shooting (.548). Howard finished third in the league in FG% (.583) last year.
•Matt Howard leads the Bulldogs in scoring at home this season with a 15.9 average. He's shooting .618 in Hinkle Fieldhouse, and he's shot at a .691 (38-55) clip in Butler's last five home games.
•Matt Howard currently stands fifth on Butler's list for career field goal shooting. The 6-8 sophomore is shooting .565 (279-494) over his first two seasons.
•Matt Howard ranks second in the Horizon League in blocked shots (1.5) and in offensive rebounds (2.6).
•Junior Willie Veasley has averaged 11.3 points in Butler's last six 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.
•Butler continues to lead the Horizon League in scoring margin (+10.7). The Bulldogs lead the league in scoring defense (57.4) and stand second in scoring offense (68.1).
•The Bulldogs are leading the league in field goal percentage defense (.380) and three-point field goal percentage defense (.311).
•Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack continue to climb Butler's all-time freshman scoring list. Hayward stands in third place with 401 points, while Mack is seventh with 346. 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 has become just the second freshman in Butler basketball history to record over 400 points and 175 rebounds. The first to accomplish the feat was Matt Howard last season.
•Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored have set a Butler freshman record for games started. Each has started 30 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 rebounding margin (+3.2). The Bulldogs have out-rebounded six of their last seven opponents.
Butler vs. Cleveland State
•Butler and Cleveland State are meeting for the third time this season, for the second time in ten days and for the 32nd time overall. The Bulldogs won the first two meetings this season and lead the overall series, 25-6.
•The Bulldogs are facing Cleveland State for the Horizon League Tournament championship for the second consecutive year. Butler won last year's championship showdown at Hinkle Fieldhouse, 70-55, behind the 24-point, 13-rebound performance of tournament MVP Mike Green. It was the first time the two league foes had met in Horizon League Tournament action.
•Butler opened the 2008-09 Horizon League season in December at Cleveland State, the league preseason favorite. The Bulldogs escaped with a 50-48 victory when sophomore Zach Hahn nailed a three-point field goal at the buzzer. The win started Butler on its march to a third consecutive Horizon League regular season championship.
•Butler shot a season-low 32% (17-54) and scored a season-low 50 points in the December meeting with Cleveland State and then shot a season-best 56% (23-41) in the game against the Vikings in Hinkle Fieldhouse.
•The Bulldogs closed the 2008-09 regular season at home with a 58-56 victory over Cleveland State just 10 days ago. Freshman Ronald Nored converted a rebound into a lay-up with just under a minute remaining and then added a free throw with 0:16 left to give Butler the two-point win and outright possession of the Horizon League regular season crown. The Bulldogs led by 50-40 with under 10 minutes remaining, but Cleveland State unleashed a 12-0 run to grab its first lead of the second half with 4:46 left.
•Forward Willie Veasley led three Bulldogs in double-figures with a career-high 16 points in Butler's home win over Cleveland State. Veasley averaged a team-high 12.5 points and 6.0 rebounds in two meetings with the Vikings this year.
•Freshman Ronald Nored made all four shots that he attempted and scored a career-high 11 points in Butler's home win over Cleveland State.
•Forward Matt Howard has averaged 15.0 points in three games against the Vikings in Hinkle Fieldhouse. Howard had 16 points and five rebounds in last year's Horizon League Tournament Championship Game against Cleveland State.
•The Bulldogs are 15-1 all-time against Cleveland State in
Hinkle Fieldhouse with the lone setback coming in 2004-05, 65-56.
Butler has prevailed in the last five meetings with Cleveland State
at Hinkle Fieldhouse.