Bulldogs Face Kansas State In West Regional Final

ELITE APPEARANCE:  Butler will make its first-ever appearance in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship when it faces No. 2 seed Kansas State at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Saturday (March 27).  The game is slated for 2:30 p.m. (MT, 4:30 p.m. in Indianapolis) and will be nationally-televised on CBS.  The No. 5-seeded Bulldogs (31-4) earned their trip to the West Regional championship game with a stunning, 63-59, upset of top-seeded Syracuse in the regional semifinals.  It was Butler’s first victory in four trips to the Sweet 16 and first win over a No. 1 seed.  Kansas State (29-7) held serve in its semifinals match-up with No. 6 seed Xavier, holding on to win, 101-96, in double-overtime.  The Wildcats have reached the Elite Eight for the 12th time in school history.  The winner of Saturday’s Butler-Kansas State game will advance to the Final Four in Indianapolis.  Butler is a co-host of this year’s Final Four at Lucas Oil Stadium.          

Butler improved to 5-1 as a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

MILESTONE WIN:  The 63-59 victory over Syracuse not only gave Butler its deepest advancement in the NCAA Tournament, but also lifted the Bulldogs to a school- and Horizon League record 31 wins.  The previous school and league record of 30 wins was set by Butler in 2007-08, Brad Stevens’ first season as a head coach.  Butler owns the top three single season win totals in Horizon League history - 31 (2009-10), 30 (2007-08) and 29 (2006-07).

BONUS SEASON:  Butler has advanced to post-season tournament play for the 12th time in 14 years.  The Bulldogs earned bids to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship in 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009 and this season, and to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) in 1999, 2002 and 2006.  Butler’s post-season record since 1997 is 13-11 (9-8 NCAA, 4-3 NIT).

RECORD RUN:  Butler’s 116 wins over the past four seasons have set a school and Horizon League record for most wins in four consecutive years.  The Bulldogs also own the Horizon League’s two-year (59, 2006-08) and three-year (87, 2007-10) records for wins.

The Bulldogs have won at least 26 games in four consecutive seasons.
 
LAST TIME OUT:  Butler used an 11-0 run in the closing minutes to erase a four-point deficit and spring a 63-59 upset over top-seeded Syracuse in the semifinals of the West Regional.  The Bulldogs trailed 54-50 with just over three minutes remaining when sophomore Ronald Nored ignited the decisive run with his lone three-point field goal of the game.  Junior Matt Howard followed with a lay-up to give Butler the lead for good, 55-54, and the Bulldogs added six more points to take a seven-point advantage with less than a minute remaining.  Butler had jumped to a 12-1 lead in the game and led at halftime, 35-25.  But Syracuse opened the second half with a 15-4 run and took its first lead in the game at 40-39 with 13:31 remaining on a three-point field goal by Wesley Johnson.                                           

Butler improved to 4-2 under Brad Stevens in NCAA Tournament play.

ADD ONE:  Butler stretched the nation’s longest winning streak to 23 straight games with its victory over Syracuse.  The Bulldogs have not lost since Dec. 22, when they dropped a 10-point decision at UAB.  The current streak has shattered Butler’s previous record for longest winning streak - 15 consecutive games in 1999-00.

FAIR SHARE:  Sophomore Gordon Hayward, who scored a team-high 17 points against Syracuse, became the fifth different player to lead the Bulldogs in scoring in the past six games.  It was also the first time that the Butler scoring leader had topped the Bulldogs in a game since Feb. 11, when he tallied 22 points in a win over Youngstown State.

Three different players have led Butler in scoring during the NCAA Tournament.   

HANDLE WITH CARE:  The Bulldogs committed just two turnovers in the first half against Syracuse and just seven for the game.  That total was one shy of Butler’s season-low set against UIC on Feb. 17 and Murray State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.  Butler has committed just 23 turnovers (7.7 pg) in its three NCAA tournament games.

FIRST DEFENSE:  Butler held Syracuse to a season-low 59 points, including a season-low 25 in the first half.  The Bulldogs, who lead the Horizon League in team scoring defense (59.7), have held 10 of their last 11 foes below 60 points, including all three NCAA Tournament opponents.  Butler is 18-0 this season when holding its opponent below 60 points.

RECORD APPEARANCE:  Senior Willie Veasley, who scored 13 points in Butler’s victory over Syracuse, played in his Butler-record eighth NCAA Tournament game.  The previous Butler record for most NCAA Tournament games was six, shared 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 116 wins in four seasons.

GRAND EFFORT:  Junior Matt Howard became the 32nd Butler player to score 1,000 career points earlier this season.  His nine points against Syracuse boosted his career scoring total to 1,308 points, good for 18th place on Butler’s all-time scoring list.  He trails Ted Guzek (1954-58) in 17th place by three points, and Tom Bowman (1960-63) in 16th place by 26 points.

POLLING DATA:  Butler climbed to No. 11 in the Associated Press (A.P.) national poll and to No. 8 in the  ESPN/USA Today “Top 25,” heading into the 2010 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.  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 19 straight weeks.  Butler has been ranked in the “Top 25” each year since 2006-07.

The Bulldogs’ current ESPN/USA Today ranking matches Butler’s highest-ever national ranking.

BULLDOG BITS:  

•Butler improved to 3-3 against teams ranked in the “Top 25” this season.  The Bulldogs are 4-3 against opponents from the BCS conferences.

•Butler is the first No. 5 seed to reach the Elite Eight since Michigan State did it in 2005.

•Matt Howard hit three of four free throws against Syracuse and became Butler’s all-time leader for free throws made with 479.  He topped the previous school mark of 477,  set by Bobby Plump, 1954-58.

•Matt Howard is in seventh place on Butler’s single season list for free throws made with 167.  He needs four free throws to tie Billy Shepherd (1970-71) in the No. 6 spot.

•Matt Howard is shooting .524 (87-166) from the field and .800 (104-130) from the free throw line during Butler’s current 23-game winning streak.

•Matt Howard leads the Horizon League in free throws made with 167, while teammate Gordon Hayward is second with 161.  Hayward is fifth in the league in free throw percentage (.821), while Howard is ninth (.803).

•Gordon Hayward stands third on Butler’s all-time list for sophomore scoring with 519 points, while Shelvin Mack has moved into the No. 4 spot with 494 points.  Both players passed teammate Matt Howard (475) on the all-time list.

•Gordon Hayward has averaged a team-best 14.4 points during the squad’s current 23-game winning streak.  He’s shot .497 from the field and scored 20 or more points four times during the streak.  Hayward also has topped the team in rebounding (7.6) during the streak.

•Gordon Hayward, who hit seven of eight free throws against Syracuse, has set a Butler NCAA Tournament record for most free throws made with 19 this year.

•Sophomore Shelvin Mack needs seven points to break the Butler NCAA Tournament scoring record of 56 points, set by Gerry Williams in 1962.

•Butler is 26-4 when Shelvin Mack scores at least 14 points in a game, and 17-1 when he leads the team in scoring.  Mack scored all 14 of his points against Syracuse in the first half.

•Butler boasts three of the top seven players in field goal percentage in the Horizon League.  Senior Willie Veasley ranks fourth (.502), junior Matt Howard is sixth (.490) and sophomore Gordon Hayward is seventh (.473).

•Junior Willie Veasley has scored in double-figures in eight of his last 10 games.  He’s averaged 11.8 points in the six games since missing the Siena contest with a sprained left knee.

•The Bulldogs’ 13 steals against Syracuse tied Butler’s NCAA Tournament record set against Cincinnati in 1997.  The 13 thefts also tied Butler’s season-high, set on Dec. 5 against Valparaiso.

•Ronald Nored matched his season high and tied Butler’s NCAA Tournament single game record with five steals against Syracuse.  A. J. Graves had five steals against Tennessee in Butler’s 2008 NCAA Tournament appearance.  Nored, who ranks sixth in the Horizon League in steals (1.7), has eight steals in Butler’s three tournament games.  

•Ronald Nored has moved into 12th place on Butler’s single season chart for assists with 128.  He’s three assists behind Travis Trice (1993-94) in 11th place.  Nored needs 9 assists to tie Thomas Jackson (2000-01) in 10th place on the single season list.

•Junior Zach Hahn ranks second in the Horizon League in three-point field goal shooting (.427).  Hahn has shot .457 (43-94) from the three-point arc during Butler’s 23-game winning streak.

•Butler has won its last 23 games when hitting at least nine three-point field goals.  The Bulldogs, who hit nine three-pointers against Wright State in the league championship title game, are 40-1 under head coach Brad Stevens when hitting nine or more three-pointers in a game.

Photos by John Fetcho