ADVANCE DEGREE: Butler will be shooting
for its third “Sweet 16” berth in eight years when it
faces Murray State in the second round of the 2010 NCAA Men’s
Basketball Championship on Saturday, March 20. The game is
slated for 12:20 p.m. (PT, 3:20 p.m. in Indianapolis) at HP
Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. The No. 5-seeded Bulldogs (29-4)
advanced to the second round with a convincing 77-59 victory over
No. 12 seed UTEP on Thursday (March 18). It was
Butler’s fifth first round victory in its last six trips to
the NCAA Tournament. Murray State (31-4), seeded No. 13,
pulled off the biggest upset in San Jose with a 66-65 victory over
No. 4-seeded Vanderbilt on a 15-foot jumper by Danero Thomas as the
final buzzer sounded. The Racers are the first team in Ohio
Valley Conference history to win 30 games, and they compiled a
school-record 17-game winning streak during the season.
Heading into the NCAA Tournament, Murray State boasted an average
winning margin of 17.0 points, including 13 wins by 20 or more
points! All five starters for the Racers average in
double-figures. The winner of the Butler-Murray State game
will advance to the West Regional semifinals in Salt Lake City,
Utah, on March 27. The Bulldogs reached the Sweet 16 in 2003
as a No. 12 seed and in 2007 as a No. 5
Butler improved to 3-1 as a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
ADD ONE: Butler extended the nation’s longest active winning streak to 21 straight games with its first round victory.
SOLID START: The Bulldogs’ 18-point win over UTEP was the second-largest margin of victory by a Butler team in NCAA Tournament play. Butler defeated South Alabama, 81-61, in the first round of the 2008 tournament, the Bulldogs’ first tournament game under head coach Brad Stevens. It was Butler’s fourth win by double-figures in all-time NCAA Tournament play.
POLL NUMBERS: Butler wound up at No. 12 in the final regular season Associated Press (A.P.) national poll and climbed to No. 8 in the ESPN/USA Today “Top 25,” released on March 15. The Bulldogs were ranked in both polls for the first seven weeks of the season and have been ranked in the ESPN/USA Today poll for 18 straight weeks. The No. 8 ranking matches Butler’s previous high (Feb. 18, 2008, both polls).
LAST TIME OUT: Butler shook off a slow start with a blistering second half performance to dispatch UTEP in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Trailing by six points at halftime, 33-27, the Bulldogs opened the final period with a 22-4 run to take command of the contest. Butler shot 53.8% (14-26) in the second half, including 52.6% (10-19) from beyond the three-point arc! Sophomore Gordon Hayward hit a pair of free throws to break a 37-37 tie and spark a 12-0 run that gave the Bulldogs a 49-37 advantage. UTEP never got closer than 10 points for the rest of the game. The Bulldogs stretched the margin to as many as 21 points in the closing seconds, before settling for the 18-point win. It was the second NCAA Tournament win for third-year Butler head coach Brad Stevens.
The Bulldogs improved to 3-0 as the higher seed in NCAA Tournament play.
STEALTH BOMBER: Butler, down by six points at halftime to No. 12 UTEP, needed someone to step up and help turn the tide. Sophomore Shelvin Mack answered the call. The 6-3 guard opened the second half with back-to-back three-point field goals to tie the game, and that was just the beginning. He went on to hit four more three-pointers, and he finished the game with seven threes in nine attempts. His seven three-pointers were one shy of the Butler NCAA Tournament record shared by Darnell Archey (vs. Louisville, 2003) and Pete Campbell (vs. South Alabama, 2008). Mack led all scorers in the game and matched his career high (set earlier this season against Milwaukee) with 25 points. He had 18 points after intermission. His seven three-pointers were a career-high, breaking his previous career mark of five set against UAB (2008) and Youngstown State (2010).
Shelvin Mack has averaged 21.5 points in two career NCAA Tournament games.
DIALING LONG DISTANCE: Four different players contributed to a season-high 13 three-point field goals in Butler’s first round victory over UTEP. Sophomore Shelvin Mack led the way with seven, while junior Zach Hahn came off the bench with three long-range shots. Junior Shawn Vanzant added a pair of three-pointers and senior Willie Veasley had one. Butler hit 10 three-point field goals in the final 20 minutes. The 13 three-pointers were two shy of the Butler NCAA Tournament record, set against South Alabama in 2008.
RECORD APPEARANCE: Senior Willie Veasley, who had eight points and a team-high nine rebounds against UTEP, tied a Butler record with his sixth NCAA Tournament game. The Butler record for most NCAA Tournament games previously was set by Joel Cornette (2000-03) and Butler Coordinator of Basketball Operations Darnell Archey (2000-03). Veasley is the first Butler player to see action in four different NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships.
Willie Veasley has helped Butler to a school-record 114 wins in four seasons.
GRAND EFFORT: Junior Matt Howard became the 32nd Butler player to score 1,000 career points earlier this season. His 11 points against UTEP boosted his career scoring total to 1,296 points, good for 18th place on Butler’s all-time scoring list. He trails Ted Guzek (1954-58) in 17th place by 15 points, and Tom Bowman (1960-63) in 16th place by 38 points.
ALL-DISTRICT: Butler had three players named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-District 12 Team. Sophomores Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack were selected first team on the coaches’ honor squad, while junior Matt Howard was picked second team. The Bulldogs were the only team to have three players named to the All-District 12 squad. Howard was a first team All-District 12 player a year ago, while Hayward was a second team pick. Earlier, Butler coach Brad Stevens was named NABC All-District 12 Coach of the Year, while Hayward was chosen to the All-District V team by the USBWA.
•The Bulldogs’ 18-point victory over UTEP tied the second-largest margin of victory by a team from the Horizon League in the NCAA Tournament. Xavier beat New Oreleans by 18 (73-55) in the 1993 tournament. The largest margin was Butler’s 81-61 win over South Alabama in 2008.
•Butler’s 50 points in the second half against UTEP were a season-high for the Bulldogs, three more than the team’s previous best second half at UIC.
•The Bulldogs set a Butler NCAA Tournament record for three-point field goal attempts with 31 against UTEP. The previous mark was 28 against Cincinnati in 1997 and South Alabama in 2008.
•Matt Howard stands in second place on Butler’s all-time list for free throws made with 475. He’s two free throws shy of the school record (477) set by Bobby Plump, 1954-58.
•Matt Howard is shooting .546 (83-152) over Butler’s last 21 games.
•Matt Howard leads the Horizon League in free throws made with 163, while teammate Gordon Hayward is second with 151. Hayward is fifth in the league in free throw shooting (.830), while Howard is ninth (.807).
•Gordon Hayward, who scored 13 points against UTEP, stands third on the Butler’s all-time list for sophomore scoring with 490 points, just ahead of teammate Matt Howard (475 in 2008-09).
•Gordon Hayward has averaged a team-best 14.4 points during the squad’s current 21-game winning streak. He’s shot .508 from the field and scored 20 or more points four times during the streak.
•Gordon Hayward ranks fifth in the Horizon League in scoring (15.3) and third in rebounding (8.3). He’s the lone player in the league to rank in the “Top 5” in both scoring and rebounding.
•Shelvin Mack has moved into fifth place on Butler’s list for sophomore season scoring with 469 points. He trails teammate Matt Howard in fourth place by six points.
•Butler is 25-4 when Shelvin Mack scores at least 14 points in a game, and 17-1 when he leads the team in scoring.
•Butler boasts three of the “Top 10” players in field goal percentage in the Horizon League. Senior Willie Veasley ranks fourth (.509), junior Matt Howard is fifth (.502) and sophomore Gordon Hayward is seventh (.478). Shelvin Mack is tied for 12th in the league (.466).
•Junior Willie Veasley has played in three NCAA Tournament wins (Old Dominion, 2007, South Alabama, 2008, UTEP, 2010), which ties Joel Cornette, Darnell Archey and Brandon Miller (2001 & 2003) for the most by a Butler player.
•Willie Veasley was named to the 11th Annual All-Glue Team, selected by Seth Davis (SI.com), recognizing players who “do everything to win.” The other four players chosen were David Lighty of Ohio State, Chris Kramer of Purdue, Reggie Redding of Villanova and Rick Jackson of Syracuse.
•Junior Zach Hahn, who hit three of six three-point field goal attempts in the Horizon League championship game, leads the League in three-point field goal shooting (.438). Hahn has shot .473 (35-74) from the three-point arc during Butler’s 21-game winning streak.
•The Bulldogs, who lead the Horizon League in team scoring defense (60.0), have held eight of their last nine foes below 60 points.
•Butler has won its last 23 games when hitting at least nine three-point field goals. The Bulldogs are 40-1 under head coach Brad Stevens when hitting nine or more three-pointers in a game.
•Butler and Murray State shared the nation’s longest winning streak (17) last month, before the Racers dropped a game at Morehead State. The two teams are a combined 40-1 in 2010.
(Photos by John Fetcho)