March 17, 2009

Bulldogs Open NCAA Tournament Play Against #21 LSU

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DANCE CARD: Butler will be making its third consecutive appearance in the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship when it takes the court in the first round of the South Regional on Thursday, March 19. The Bulldogs (26-5), seeded ninth, earned an at-large bid to the championship and will face No. 8 seed LSU (26-7) at the Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum at 12:20 p.m. (ET) to begin tournament play. LSU, ranked #21 in the Associated Press (A.P.) poll, was the regular season champion of the Southeastern Conference and the Tigers boast one of the top scorers in the nation in SEC Player of the Year Marcus Thornton (20.9 ppg). The Bulldogs advanced to the Sweet 16 of the 2007 NCAA Championship as an at-large selection and then won a first round game in last year's national tournament after securing an automatic bid.

Butler has won a first round game in its last four NCAA Tournament appearances.

BONUS PLAY: Butler has advanced to post-season tournament play for the 11th time in 13 years. The Bulldogs earned bids to the NCAA Men's Basketball National Championship in 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2008 and this season and to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in 1999, 2002 and 2006. Butler's post-season record over the past 12 years is 10-10 (6-7 NCAA, 4-3 NIT).

20-PLUS: Butler has posted its 11th 20-win season in the past 13 years and its fourth consecutive. The Bulldogs' 26 wins have tied the fourth-highest single season win total in school-history. Butler won 20 regular season games for the fifth time in school history.

The Bulldogs have won at least 26 games in three straight seasons.

RECORD RUN: Butler's 85 wins over the past three seasons have set a school and Horizon League record for most wins in three consecutive years, breaking the previous mark of 77 wins set by Butler from 2000 to 2003. The Bulldogs also own the two-year record with 59 wins, 2006-08.

LAST TIME OUT: Cleveland State overcame an eight-point deficit in the second half and held on to upset top-seeded Butler, 57-54, in the championship game of the Horizon League Tournament on the Bulldogs' homecourt. The Vikings, hit a season-best 10 of 19 shots from beyond the three-point arc, including six of nine in the final 20 minutes. Tournament MVP Cedric Jackson scored 10 of his game-high 19 points after intermission to spark the Cleveland State comeback. Butler scored just six points in the final 10 minutes of the contest.

ALL-TOURNAMENT: Butler's duo of sophomore Matt Howard and freshman Shelvin Mack both were named to the five-player Horizon League All-Tournament Team, following the league championship. Howard scored 38 points in Butler's two tournament games, including a game-high 24 points in the Bulldogs' semifinal win over Wright State. Mack had 25 points in the tournament, including a team-high 18 points in the championship game. Rounding out the All-Tournament squad were Cedric Jackson, Norris Cole and J'Nathan Bullock, all of Cleveland State.

Matt Howard has been named Horizon League All-Tournament for two consecutive years.

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 (14.6) and rebounding (6.7) and second in blocked shots (1.5). He leads the league in field goal shooting (.548). 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.

FRESH LOOK: 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 (13.2) and rebounding (6.5), and he ranks among the league's top seven 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). Hayward is the second Butler freshman to be named league Newcomer of the Year (Matt Howard was the first), and just the second Butler freshman to be named first team All-Horizon League, following Tony Warren in 1979-80.

Butler is the first Horizon League school to have the league's Newcomer of the Year in three successive seasons.

NEW KIDS: Freshman Shelvin Mack joined teammate Gordon Hayward on the Horizon League All-Newcomer Team. Mack ranks among the league leaders in scoring (11.7), three-point field goals (1.7) and assists (3.5). The other three players on the All-Newcomer squad were juniors - Tone Boyle and James Eayrs of Milwaukee and DeAndre Mays of Youngstown State.

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 seventh in scoring (13.2), fifth in rebounding (6.5), fifth in field goal shooting (.482), second in 3-point field goal shooting (.445), fifth in free throw shooting (.815), fifth in 3-point field goals (2.1), seventh in steals (1.5) and blocked shots (0.9), third in defensive rebounds (5.0) and eighth in minutes played (32.5). He's the top freshman in all 10 categories.

FIRST DEFENSE: Butler is leading the Horizon League in team scoring defense (57.4) for the fourth consecutive year and for the eighth time in 10 years. The Bulldogs have held their last four opponents under 60 points and have kept 20 total opponents to 59 points or less. Butler also leads the Horizon League in three-point field goal percentage defense (.318), while ranking second in field goal percentage defense (.382). The Bulldogs are 18-2 when holding an opponent below 60 points.

Butler ranks sixth in the NCAA Division I in team scoring defense and in field goal percentage defense.

ALL-DISTRICT: Butler's duo of Matt Howard and Gordon Hayward were among 10 players named to the All-District 12 team, chosen by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Howard was named first team, along with Ben Woodside (North Dakota State), Ryan Tillema (Green Bay), J'Nathan Bullock (Cleveland State) and Erik Kangas (Oakland). Hayward was picked second team, along with Brett Winkelman (North Dakota State), Josh Mayo (UIC), Todd Brown (Wright State) and Robert Jarvis (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 56-9 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 by the U. S. Basketball Writers Association and one of 10 finalists for the Jim Phelan Award, given 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.

POLLING DATA: Butler was ranked in the "Top 25" in both the Associated Press (A.P.) and ESPN/USA Today national polls for the final 10 weeks of the regular season. The Bulldogs, ranked as high as No. 11 this year, wound up at No. 16 in the A.P. poll and No. 17 in the ESPN/USA Today poll (March 9). Butler has been ranked in at least one poll for 30 weeks under second-year head coach Brad Stevens.

TOURNAMENT NOTES:

•Butler is 8-8 all-time in NCAA Tournament play. The Bulldogs are 6-4 with a pair of "Sweet 16" appearances in their last four trips to the national championship.

•Butler is one of just 25 teams to advance to the "Sweet 16" twice in the past six years, and the Bulldogs are one of just three non-BCS schools (Xavier and Memphis are the other two) to accomplish the feat.

•The Bulldogs made their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1962 and then went 35 years before earning a second tournament berth. This year's bid is Butler's eighth in the past 13 years.

•Six of Butler's eight NCAA Tournament wins have come with the Bulldogs wearing the visiting team uniforms (higher seed). The Bulldogs have worn the home uniforms twice, posting wins as a #5 seed over #12 Old Dominion (2007) and as a #7 seed over #10 South Alabama (2008).

•Former guard A. J. Graves is Butler's all-time leading scorer in NCAA Tournament action. He scored 87 points (17.4) in five tournament games, with a high game of 21 points against Tennessee last year. Graves scored in double-figures in each NCAA Tournament game in which he played.

•Butler juniors Willie Veasley and Nick Rodgers are making their third consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament, which ties the Butler record for most tournament appearances. Seven previous Butler players (Mike Marshall, Andrew Graves, Joel Cornette, Darnell Archey, Lewis Curry and Mike Moore) also reached the NCAA Tournament three times.

•Current Iowa assistant coach LaVall Jordan became the first player in Butler history to play in four NCAA Tournament games. The Butler record for most NCAA Tournament games is six, shared by current Iowa assistant coach Joel Cornette and Darnell Archey. Current Butler junior Willie Veasley has played in four tournament games.

•Brad Stevens is the first Butler head coach to reach the NCAA Tournament in his first two seasons with the Bulldogs. He also participated in the NCAA Tournament as Butler's director of basketball operations in 2000, and as a Butler assistant coach in 2003 and 2007. He's been on the sidelines with the Bulldogs for six of Butler's eight NCAA Tournament wins.

•Assistant coach Matthew Graves has participated in the NCAA Tournament as both a player and as a coach for the Bulldogs. Graves played in the 1997 and 1998 tournaments, and he served as an assistant coach for the Bulldogs in the past two national tournaments.

BULLDOG BITS:

•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 .624 (58-93) 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 currently stands fifth on Butler's list for career field goal shooting. The 6-8 sophomore is shooting .565 (283-501) over his first two seasons.

•Matt Howard has averaged 17.3 points over Butler's last 10 games. He has posted eight consecutive double-figures scoring performances, including a career-high 30 points against Loyola on Feb. 15.

•Matt Howard ranks second in the Horizon League in blocked shots (1.5) and in offensive rebounds (2.6).

•Matt Howard has tied the third-highest single season total for blocked shots in Butler history with 48. The second-highest total is held by Brandon Polk (205-06) with 50, while Butler's single season record of 64 was set by 7-2 Rolf van Rijn in 1996-97 and again in 1997-98.

•Matt Howard has started 57 of Butler's last 58 games, dating back to last season. He didn't start on Butler's "Senior Day" a year ago.

•Matt Howard has posted the sixth-highest single season total for free throws (167) in Butler basketball history.

•Junior Willie Veasley has averaged 10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds in Butler's last five games. He had a career-high 16 points in Butler's final regular season game against Cleveland State.

•Sophomore Zach Hahn has hit 43 of his 52 field goals this season from beyond the three-point arc. He hit 17 of 23 field goals from three-point range last season.

•Freshman Shelvin Mack stands second in the Horizon League in assist/turnover ratio (1.6), and he ranks sixth in the league in assists (3.5).

•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 recorded 168 assists in his first season in 1990-91.

•Freshman point-guard Ronald Nored is shooting .500 (22-44) over Butler's last 10 games. He shot just .353 (24-68) over Butler's first 21 games.

•Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack continue to climb Butler's all-time freshman scoring list. Hayward stands in third place with 408 points, while Mack is sixth with 364. 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 the first freshman in Butler basketball history to record 400 points and 200 rebounds. A year ago, Matt Howard became the first Butler freshman with 400 points and 175 rebounds.

•Gordon Hayward has set Butler freshman records for most rebounds (201) and for most 3-point field goals (65). Matt Howard had the previous freshman rebounding mark (201), while Jermaine Guice (1990-91) owned the three-point record (51).

•Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored have set a Butler freshman record for games started. Each has started 31 games this season, breaking the previous mark of 28 held by Tim Bowen (89-90) and Rylan Hainje (1998-99).

•Freshman Garrett Butcher has scored more than half of his 2008-09 points in Butler's last 10 games. Butcher has scored 41 points and shot .621 from the field in Butler's last 10 contests.

•The Bulldogs have been led in scoring by four different players over the past five games. Matt Howard has led the team twice, while Gordon Hayward, Willie Veasley and Shelvin Mack each have topped the Bulldogs once.

•Butler continues to lead the Horizon League in scoring margin (+10.3). The Bulldogs also led the Horizon League in scoring margin in 2006-07 (+10.5) and in 2007-08 (+10.4).

•Butler leads the Horizon League in rebounding margin (+3.3). The Bulldogs have out-rebounded seven of their last eight opponents. The last time that Butler out-rebounded its opponents for an entire season was 1999-2000, and the Bulldogs also led the league in rebounding margin (+3.5) that season.

•The Bulldogs are second in the Horizon League in three-point field goals (8.0). Butler is 14-0 this season when hitting at least nine three-pointers in a game.