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Everybody loves an underdog – Part 4
Nice to meet you, glad you’re back
Posted by Ryan Kelly on
March 29, 2010

No matter their size (less than 5,000 students) or stature (they had never previously been to a Final Four) the Butler Bulldogs have forever put themselves into the record books – with two thrilling victories where they had the lead, gave it up and then got it back for good again – by earning a spot in the Final Four in their hometown of Indianapolis. They will be the first team since UCLA in 1972 to play in the Final Four in their hometown.

And they find themselves in this position primarily because of their effort at the defensive end of the floor. First, in the Sweet Sixteen they responded to an 11-2 run from Syracuse by stifling the Orange down the stretch, limiting them to just one basket in the final 5:23. Then against Kansas State in the Elite Eight they led the majority of the way – keyed by their defensive coverage assigned to K-State guards Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen who combined for just two first half points, after the duo netted 46 in their victory over Xavier – only to see the game tied with just over three minutes to play. Undeterred though they responded with a 9-0 run to seal the victory and the only other basket they would allow was an inconsequential shot at the buzzer that only served to make the margin of defeat slightly more palatable for Kansas State.

While Butler is going to make their first appearance in the national semi final, West Virginia will make its second trip but it will be the first time they’ve made it since 1959. Their calling card was defence as well, with an assist going to Kentucky who struggled to find their range – at the free throw line, striping just 16 of 29 attempts and from deep with just four of 32 dropping and none of them coming before to the final four minutes of the game.

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TAGS: ryan kelly, march madness update, chill, ncaa, basketball, spring, sports, sports special

Gordon Hayward, Butler
19.5 points per game, 7 rebounds per game

Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia
16.5 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game

Durrell Summers, Michigan State
20.5 points per game, 5.5 rebounds per game

Nolan Smith, Duke
22 points per game, 4 rebounds per game

Jon Scheyer, Duke
19 points per game, 5 rebounds per game, 4 assists per game

Joe Mazzulla, West Virginia – a career high 17 points in the Elite Eight victory over Kentucky.

COACH OF THE WEEK – Brad Stevens, Butler
On a weekend when literally every single coach whose team is still vying for a national title would be a legitimate candidate, Stevens stands above the rest. He doesn’t come from a power conference and he’s playing within a much tighter budget. According to public filings from the 2008-09 season with the U.S. department of education for the equity in athletics disclosure act, Butler spent an average of just over $25,000 per player. The average for the other seven Elite Eight teams was more than five-times that amount at just over $137,000 per player.

A special note to the work of CBS play-by-play maven Gus Johnson whose enthusiasm during a game’s climatic moments is infectious. With lead voice Jim Nantz set to call the Final Four and championship game Johnson’s March Madness work for the year is complete, but it was another stellar tournament for the Detroit native. He worked both of Butler’s victories this past weekend as well as the two-overtime epic between Kansas State and Xavier.

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