2010 Final Four: Butler Isn't Butler If It Isn't Black and Blue
INDIANAPOLIS— After Butler beat Michigan State, the Bulldogs looked like they each got in a fight with their mascot that watched on from the sideline.
As Butler guard Ronald Nored said, "Everyone had scratches and bruises."
Star forward Gordon Hayward's shin was all bloodied up to match a beauty of a fat lip.
"It's a good thing I was wearing a mouth piece," Hayward said jokingly.
Shelvin Mack cramped up all game, while Matt Howard dealt with a mild concussion suffered during a collision fighting for the ball (which Butler got).
But when you're center who is only 6'8'' is in perpetual foul trouble, the small, scrappy lineup Brad Stevens puts on the floor must be physical to win.
According to Butler players, their offensive system begs opponents to bloody them up.
"It's in the system; we take good shots and we attack the basket," forward Avery Jukes said. "[Free throws] are better shots than long range shots."
Michigan State fouled Butler early and often.
The Bulldogs ended up shooting a free throw for every two field goal attempts Saturday night, a ratio slightly better than their season average.
Oh, and their season average is 15th in the country. Not bad for the 295th tallest team in America.
That "let 'em beat you up" mentality came as a product of non-conference season.
Last year, Butler didn't challenge itself too much out of league and suffered an opening round lost to a much longer and athletic LSU team.
This year, Stevens scheduled six major conference teams (seven if you include annual mid-major powerhouse Xavier) and it has paid dividends.
"It's done wonders for us," Will Veasley said. "We are more prepared for them."
The last three games, Butler has dealt with three very good offensive rebounding teams that hail from major conferences.
Syracuse, Kansas State, and Michigan State came into their games against Butler grabbing 37.6, 40.4 and 39.7 percent of their misses respectively, which was good for 29th, 4th and 8th in the country.
Syracuse, K-State, and MSU pulled in a mere 29.2, 28.9 and 25 percent of their misses.
That trend must continue in the championship game against Duke.
The Blue Devils rank sixth in the country in offensive rebounding percentage and feature a seven footer, Brian Zoubek, who is the nation's best offensive rebounder.
If the Bulldogs force Zoubek, a member of the frequent fouler club, to bloody Butler up, then Butler might be able to win a championship.
And if the Bulldogs win a championship, you can expect two things from Gordon Hayward: He'll be a lottery pick and his first endorsement contract will be representing his mouth guard of choice.
For more updates on college basketball, follow @JamesonFleming on twitter. He's in Indianapolis covering the Final Four for Bleacher Report.
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