As conference champions currently riding a 24-game winning streak, the fifth-seeded Butler Bulldogs prefer to eschew the notion that they are a Cinderella story.
Not only were they ranked 11th in the 2009-10 preseason, but their 32-4 record provides one of the best winning percentages in the nation.
Some people attribute Butler’s success to team chemistry, others laud the leadership of the coaching staff.
At 33 years of age, Brad Stevens has accomplished more in his three years coaching the Bulldogs than many coaches will ever achieve in their entire careers.
Gordon Hayward, the Horizon League player of the year, will be the star that will likely draw the loudest cheers in Indianapolis given that Butler is located a little more than five miles from Lucas Oil Stadium. Unfortunately, the sophomore will have to finish his math homework before he can start his spring break and concentrate on basketball.
Ah, the life of a student-athlete.
Even though Michigan State, also seeded fifth, advanced all the way to the championship game in 2009, the “other” five-seeded team still remaining might as well show up in a tiara, ballgown and glass slippers, as nobody expected the Spartans to make the Final Four given all the injuries they’ve recently suffered.
Have Izzo, will travel.
As the Spartans’ head coach leads his program to its sixth Final Four appearance in 12 years, he faces his biggest challenge yet without his star point guard, Kalin Lucas.
When Lucas ruptured his Achilles tendon against Maryland on March 23, MSU wasn’t expected to win the game against the Terrapins without their point guard and offensive captain.
Much less Northern Iowa and Tennessee afterwards!
With Lucas out for the rest of the season, Michigan State is essentially playing with house money. Although, one can and should praise Izzo for his intrepid leadership during the Spartans’ roller coaster post-season, Raymar Morgan (13 points, 10 boards, 2 blocks) and Durrell Summers (21 points on 8 of 10 shooting) should also be commended for stepping up with big games against the Tennessee Volunteers on March 28.
Michigan State is the Big Ten powerhouse with a Hall-of-Fame-caliber head coach playing a team from a mid-major conference called the Horizon League. Even though the Spartans are missing some key players, why on earth are they underdogs against Butler?
This slideshow should help to clarify the parity between these two programs, one facet at a time.