Bulldogs Are Home For The Final Four

BACK HOME AGAIN:  After traveling to California and Utah for the first two weekends of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, Butler has returned to Indiana for the biggest basketball contest in school history.  The Bulldogs, champions of the West Regional, will make their first Final Four appearance when they meet Michigan State on Saturday, April 3.  The 6:07 p.m. (ET) game at Lucas Oil Stadium will be the first of two national semifinals games.  Butler (32-4), a No. 5 seed, reached the Final Four with back-to-back upsets of top-seeded Syracuse, 63-59, and No. 2 seed Kansas State, 63-56, in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Michigan State (28-8), also a No. 5 seed, won the Midwest Regional with victories over Northern Iowa, 59-52, and Tennessee, 70-69.  The Spartans are returning to the Final Four for the second consecutive year, while Butler has become the first team in Horizon League history to reach the Final Four.  Overall, Butler is making its tenth NCAA Tournament appearance, a record for current Horizon League members.

Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse is located 5.7 miles from Lucas Oil Stadium.      

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 14-11 (10-8 NCAA, 4-3 NIT).

VICTORY MARK:  Butler’s 32 wins this season has established a new school and Horizon League record for victories, topping the previous mark of 30 wins set by Butler in 2007-08.  Brad Stevens also coached Butler’s 2007-08 squad.

TWENTY PLUS:  The Bulldogs boast a 20-win season for the fifth consecutive year and for the 12th time in the past 14 years.  Butler also won 20 regular season games for the fourth straight year and for the sixth time in school history.  The Bulldogs are the only team in Horizon League history to record five or more consecutive 20-win seasons, and they’ve done it twice (1997-2003, 2006-2010)!

The Bulldogs have won at least 26 games in four consecutive seasons.

RECORD RUN:  Butler’s 117 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 (88, 2008-10) records for wins.

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.

LAST TIME OUT:  Butler built a double-digits lead in the first half, surrendered all of it in the second half and rallied in the final four minutes to capture its first West Regional championship.  The Bulldogs led by as many as 11 points late in the first half and took a 27-20 lead to the locker room at halftime.  But Kansas State battled back and took a 52-51 lead with 4:50 remaining in the game.  The game was tied at 54-54 with just over three minutes left, when the Bulldogs went on a 9-0 run to put the game away.  Sophomore Gordon Hayward, who scored on a lay-up to give the Bulldogs the lead for good, and sophomore Ronald Nored each had four points in the decisive run.  It was the second straight game that the Bulldogs used a late run to pull out a come-from-behind victory.  Butler trailed top-seeded Syracuse, 54-53, with 3:14 remaining, before closing with a 10-5 run to earn its spot in the West Regional championship game.                                        

Butler has nine wins in its last five trips to the NCAA Tournament (2003-10).

OUTSTANDING PERFORMER:  Sophomore Gordon Hayward, the reigning Horizon League Player of the Year, led Butler in scoring in both games at the West Regional.  He had 17 points in the Bulldogs’ win over Syracuse, before coming back with a game-high 22 points in the championship game victory over Kansas State.  The 6-9 guard also had a game-high nine rebounds against the Wildcats.  He hit 11 of 21 shots in the two games, including four of seven from beyond the three-point arc, and he added 13 of 14 from the free throw line.  The Brownsburg, Ind., native was named the West Regional’s Most Outstanding Player after the title game victory.
 
LOOKING LONG:  Sophomore Shelvin Mack, who joined teammate Gordon Hayward on the West Regional All-Tournament Team, has been Butler’s best three-point shooter during the team’s tournament run.  Mack is 13 for 28 (.464) from beyond the three-point arc in the four NCAA Tournament games, and no other Butler player has hit more than five three-pointers in the tournament.  Mack hit seven of nine long-range shots against UTEP and three of six against Kansas State.  His seven three-pointers were a career-high and one shy of the Butler NCAA Tournament record shared by Darnell Archey (vs. Louisville 2003) and Pete Campbell (vs. South Alabama, 2008).

PLANTING SEEDS:  Butler is the only team in this year’s NCAA Tournament to have defeated both a No. 1 and No. 2 seed.  The Bulldogs took down No. 1 Syracuse in the semifinals of the West Regional, and two days later, defeated No. 2 seed Kansas State.

POINT PRODUCTION:  Sophomore Ronald Nored went 65 career games without leading Butler in scoring.  That streak ended in the second round of this year’s NCAA Tournament, when Nored tallied a game-high 15 points to lead the Bulldogs past Murray State.  The 6-0 point-guard hit six of nine shots against the Racers, including three of four in the second half.  His three-point play with 0:25 remaining gave the Bulldogs the lead for good, and boosted Butler to its third Sweet 16 trip in eight years. Nored also led all players in the game with six assists.
 
COMEBACK TRAIL:  The Bulldogs overcame a 33-26 deficit in the second half against Murray State, matching their biggest second half comeback this season.  Butler also trailed by seven in the second half at Milwaukee, before winning.

Butler trailed at halftime in both of its NCAA Tournament games in San Jose.

RECORD APPEARANCE:  Senior Willie Veasley holds Butler’s record for most NCAA Tournament games played with nine.  He broke the previous Butler record of six NCAA Tournament games shared by Joel Cornette (2000-03) and Butler Coordinator of Basketball Operations Darnell Archey (2000-03).  Veasley, who’s scored 34 points in Butler’s four tournament games this year, 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 117 wins in four seasons.

FIRST FIVE:  All five Butler starters have recorded a double-figures scoring performance during the Bulldogs’ four games in this year’s tournament.  Sophomores Shelvin Mack and Gordon Hayward both have scored in twin-digits in all four games, while senior Willie Veasley has two double-figures scoring performances.  Junior Matt Howard reached double-figures (11) against UTEP, while sophomore Ronald Nored (15) hit for  twin-digits against Murray State.

DIALING LONG DISTANCE:  Butler entered the NCAA Tournament averaging 6.8 three-point field goals per game.  The Bulldogs had not hit more than nine three-pointers in any of their previous 14 games, and they had just one game this season with more than nine three-pointers.  In four NCAA Tournament games, Butler has averaged 8.3 three-pointers, including a season-high 13 three-point field goals against UTEP.

PERFECT FINISH:  With a win at Valparaiso in the final regular season game, Butler became just the fourth team in Horizon League history to finish with an unbeaten league record and the first to post an 18-0 mark!  Loyola was 5-0 in 1979-80, Xavier finished 14-0 in 1994-95 and Green Bay was 16-0 in 1995-96.  Butler’s six-game margin in the final standings was the largest in league history!

Butler is the only unbeaten conference champ in Division I this season.

TOP CHOICE:  Sophomore Gordon Hayward became the fourth Butler player in five seasons to be named Horizon League Player of the Year.  He follows teammate Matt Howard (2008-09), Mike Green (2007-08) and Brandon Polk (2005-06) as recipient of the league’s top individual honor.  Hayward is the seventh Butler player all-time to be named Horizon League Player of the Year.
   
LEAGUE FIRST:  Butler’s success during the regular season translated into three Bulldogs being named first team All-Horizon League.  Junior Matt Howard and sophomore Gordon Hayward each earned first team recognition for the second straight year, while sophomore Shelvin Mack captured his initial first team honor.  It was the first time one team had three players named to a five-player All-Horizon League first team.

BEST DEFENSE:  Sophomore Ronald Nored was named Horizon League Co-Defensive Player of the Year (with Detroit’s Woody Payne), and senior Willie Veasley joined him on the All-Defensive Team selected by league coaches.  The two have helped Butler to the No. 1 spot in the league in team scoring defense (60.0).

Butler had all five starters recognized on the All-League Team for the first time.    

GRAND EFFORT:  Junior Matt Howard became the 32nd Butler player to score 1,000 career points earlier this season.  His 31 points in this year’s NCAA Tournament boosted his career scoring total to 1,316 points, good for 17th place on Butler’s all-time scoring list.  He trails Thomas Jackson (1998-2002) and Tom Bowman (1960-63) in a tie for 15th place by 18 points.

DOUBLE TIME:  Sophomore Gordon Hayward, who missed Butler’s final regular season game (the first of his career) with lower back pain, returned to the Bulldogs’ lineup in the Horizon League Tournament semifinals and finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds against Milwaukee.  It was his fifth consecutive double-double and the 15th double-double of his young Butler career.  The five consecutive double-doubles were the most by a Butler player since 1973-74, when Daryl Mason recorded six straight.  Hayward leads the Horizon League in double-doubles this season with 12.

LEADING ROLE:  For the second straight year, Butler’s Brad Stevens was named Horizon League Coach of the Year.  The 33-year-old Stevens became the fifth coach in league history to capture the award in back-to-back years, following Pete Gillen of Xavier (1993-94), Barry Collier of Butler (1999-2000), Bruce Pearl of Milwaukee (2002-03) and Todd Lickliter of Butler (2006-07).  

FAST START:  Butler head coach Brad Stevens holds the No. 1 spot on the NCAA Division I list for Best Career Starts By Wins, 3 Seasons.  Stevens has 88 wins in his young career, seven more than the previous record held by Mark Fox (Nevada) and Mark Few (Gonzaga).  The Butler coach has an .863 winning percentage.

FIRST DEFENSE:  The Bulldogs, who lead the Horizon League in team scoring defense (59.6), have held 11 of their last 12 foes below 60 points.  Butler is 19-0 this season when holding its opponent below 60 points.

HOME IMPROVEMENT:  Butler posted a 15-0 record at Hinkle Fieldhouse this season, the Bulldogs’ first unbeaten home record since 2002-03.  The 15 wins matched the Butler single season record for home victories, set a year ago.  The Bulldogs, who compiled a 30-2 record at home over the past two seasons, have won 72 of their last 78 games in Hinkle Fieldhouse.  Butler has had a winning home record in 20 consecutive seasons.

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 named to the second team as a freshman.  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 U.S. Basketball Writers Association.

Butler vs. Michigan State

•Butler and Michigan State are meeting for the 24th time as basketball opponents, but for the first time in nearly four decades!  Michigan State won the last meeting between the two teams, 77-71, at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Dec. 20, 1971, to take a 13-10 lead in the overall series.  The series dates back to Jan. 14, 1927.

•The Bulldogs’ last win against Michigan State came on Dec. 17, 1969, the last season for legendary Butler head coach Paul D. “Tony” Hinkle.  Butler won that game at Hinkle Fieldhouse, 81-60.

•Tony Hinkle compiled a 10-11 record against Michigan State.  George Theofanis, who followed Hinkle as Butler’s head coach, was 0-2 against the Spartans.

•Michigan State is the first team from the Big Ten that Butler has faced in the NCAA Tournament.

•The Spartans are the fourth Big Ten team that Butler has faced this year.  The Bulldogs defeated Northwestern, 67-54, in Evanston, Ill., on Nov. 18 and Ohio State, 74-66, at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Dec. 12, while dropping a decision to Minnesota, 82-73, at the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif., on Thanksgiving Day.  Butler is 7-2 in its last nine games against teams from the Big Ten.

BULLDOG BITS:  

•Butler is the only school in the Horizon League to have won four consecutive regular season championships, and the Bulldogs have done it twice (2000-03, 2007-10).

•Butler was unbeaten in the months of January and February for the first time in school history.

•Matt Howard became Butler’s all-time leader for free throws made in the Bulldogs’ two games in Salt Lake City.  He hit seven free throws in the two games, boosting his career total to 483 and breaking the previous school record (477) set by Bobby Plump, 1954-58.

•Matt Howard is tied for sixth place on Butler’s single season list for free throws made with 171.  He’s tied with Billy Shepherd (1970-71).

•Matt Howard is shooting .530 (89-168) from the field and .783 (108-138) from the free throw line during Butler’s current 24-game winning streak.

•Matt Howard leads the Horizon League in free throws made with 171, while teammate Gordon Hayward is second with 167.  Hayward is fifth in the league in free throw percentage (.827), while Howard is tenth (.792).

•Gordon Hayward stands third on Butler’s all-time list for sophomore scoring with 541 points, while Shelvin Mack has moved into the No. 4 spot with 510 points.  Both players passed teammate Matt Howard (475) on the all-time list.

•Gordon Hayward has averaged a team-best 14.7 points during the squad’s current 24-game winning streak.  He’s shot .498 from the field and scored 20 or more points five times during the streak.  Hayward also has topped the team in rebounding (7.7) during the streak.

•Gordon Hayward ranks fifth in the Horizon League in scoring (15.5) and third in  rebounding (8.2).  He’s the lone player in the league to rank in the “Top 5” in both scoring and rebounding.

•Butler is 27-4 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 seven players in field goal percentage in the Horizon League.  Senior Willie Veasley ranks fourth (.498), junior Matt Howard is sixth (.494) and sophomore Gordon Hayward is seventh (.474).

•Willie Veasley has scored in double-figures in eight of his last 11 games.  He’s averaged 10.6 points in the seven games since missing the Siena contest with a sprained left knee.

•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.

•Sophomore Ronald Nored, who had eight assists in Butler’s two NCAA Tournament games in Salt Lake City, has averaged 4.3 assists/game during Butler’s 24-game winning streak.  Nored ranks second in the Horizon League in assist/turnover ratio (1.8) and seventh in assists (3.7).

•Ronald Nored ranks fifth in the Horizon League in steals (1.8).  Nored had a career-high five steals against Syracuse and four against Kansas State in the West Regional.

•Ronald Nored has moved into 11th place on Butler’s single season chart for assists with 133.  He needs four assists to tie Thomas Jackson (2000-01) for 10th place on the single season list.

•Junior Zach Hahn ranks fourth in the Horizon League in three-point field goal shooting (.420).  Hahn has shot .444 (36-81) from the three-point arc during Butler’s 24-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.

•The Bulldogs are ranked third in the NCAA Division I in won-lost percentage (.889).  Butler fourth in the nation in total wins (32), behind Kentucky (35), Duke (33) and Kansas (33).

•Butler improved to 23-1 this season when leading at halftime.

Photos by John Fetcho