We asked writers from each of the four Final Four schools to provide us with a persuasive article on why their team will win it all this coming weekend. Steven Peek of The Butler Collegian tells us that Butler isn’t satisfied with merely making the Final Four — they’re going all the way.
Many basketball programs use past national championships as an argument for why they are contenders in future seasons. So would it be fair to say that Butler has a chance to win the 2010 NCAA Championship because they won the national titles in the 1923-24 and 1928-29 seasons? No? OK then, let’s move beyond that fact.
The main reason why Butler could win the 2010 NCAA Tournament is because they are truly a unit, one single force moving past the competition. This can be seen in many facets of the game. First, Butler’s mentality is team-based. Gordon Hayward confirms this in his hit single “Too Big Yo,” in which he raps how “it’s not about me / it’s about the team.”
Butler had no candidates for National Player of the Year remaining by the time the tournament began. While many may believe this to be a weakness, the bracket says otherwise. Are the Ohio State Evan Turners still in the tournament? Nope. Are the Kentucky John Walls still playing? Again, no. How about the Syracuse Wes Johnsons? Butler took care of them.
Butler has had little national press coverage due to their lack of outspoken individuals. In fact, although they were ranked No. 10 nationally in the preseason polls, few people gave them credit as the 24-game winning streak built. Butler should also be considered a legitimate title contender because of their defense. In a press conference in San Jose, Calif., senior forward Willie Veasley talked about playing defense with the mindset of 5-on-1 (Butler versus the man with the ball). Using that mentality, Butler held its NCAA tournament opponents to a 56.5 points per game average, with all four teams being held to under 60 points. Sophomore guard Ronald Nored has 12 steals this tournament, five of which came against No 1.-seeded Syracuse, a team that many analysts thought would tear through Butler.
But the Bulldogs have been no stranger to being underrated. On this very subject, Nored has said, “It’s not an underestimation, it’s a misunderstanding.” Being underrated makes the Bulldogs that much stronger. Butler’s bench players have also been propelling the No. 5 seed through the tournament. Butler’s bench has been big this tournament, granting new life to the court when the play of starters needed to be energized.
The scoring of juniors Zach Hahn and Shawn Vanzant has been important, as has the defense of senior Avery Jukes and freshman Andrew Smith. I personally watched Vanzant orchestrate three fast breaks in the first half against UTEP, who had Butler’s offense stagnant at first. And because the bench is able to enter the game and continue or steal back momentum, diverse scoring is a part of the recent success. When the pressure of the NCAA tournament rises, Butler has had someone to step up. In its four tournament games, Butler has had three different leading scorers—Gordon Hayward (twice), Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored. Also, Butler has had at least five players with at least four points in all four games.
And naturally, the home court factor should not be overlooked. Lucas Oil Stadium (a.k.a. Hinkle Fieldhouse South) is only a skip and a hop away from Butler’s campus. That’s important because the Bulldogs went 15-0 at Hinkle this season. Those 15 wins include victories against NCAA tournament competitors Ohio State, Xavier and Siena. The Bulldog bandwagon has been growing in number since other “underdogs” and Indiana teams dropped from the bracket. The local crowd will certainly be supporting Butler and will likely outnumber any group of Michigan State, West Virginia or Duke fans.
Michigan State will surely be a tough opponent for Butler Saturday. Tom Izzo is a coaching legend and for good reason. Playing for him is essentially a guarantee to compete in at least one Final Four. Nonetheless, the talents of Butler head coach Brad Stevens and his staff are not to be written off due to their youth. They are humble and dedicated, as reflected in the performance of their players. All of the above is cause to count on Butler to not disappoint this weekend, whether it’s against the Spartans in the Final Four or against the next opponent in the national championship game.