NCAA Final Four 2011: Five Reasons Shelvin Mack and Butler Will Win the Title
Well, they've done it again.
The Butler Bulldogs have officially made NCAA tournament history for the second straight season, as they look to make consecutive national championship appearances under head coach Brad Stevens.
Of course, Stevens isn't the only fuel to Butler's fire.
Matt Howard, Shelvin Mack and a slew of role players have successfully carried the Horizon League champions to the Final Four once more.
So, with the Final Four set and ready for take off, here are five reasons to believe Butler will win the championship.
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Believe it or not, these Bulldogs have the most experience of any team still remaining in the field. And despite losing Gordon Hayward to the NBA, they may be the most consistent team remaining in the field.
Notable starters from a season ago such as Matt Howard, Shelvin Mack, Ronald Nored and Andrew Smith have all contributed to Butler's undisputed run towards the Final Four, and they could very well be playing in consecutive national championships if all goes well.
Likewise, Brad Stevens has become arguably the hottest coaching commodity in the country, and in coaching Butler to back-to-back Final Four appearances, he may be the most experienced coach remaining.
When Butler hits the floor against VCU Saturday, they'll have the clear advantage in the experience department.
2. Level of Competition
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On their way to making back-to-back Final Four appearances, Butler has not shied away from taking down top-notch competition.
In this year's tournament, the Bulldogs have managed to take down Old Dominion, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin and Florida—four of the most highly regarded teams headlining this year's Big Dance.
That experience and level of play should serve Brad Stevens' squad well in the Final Four as they prepare for VCU.
3. Shelvin Mack
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In four tournament games thus far, Shelvin Mack has managed to dominate opposing defenses to the tune of 21 points per game, most notably in Butler's 74-71 victory over Florida in the Elite Eight.
Coming into the tournament, Mack was widely viewed as a solid role player for the Bulldogs. Now, he's leading Butler in points per game as they make their way to Houston for their second Final Four in a row.
If the Bulldogs are to beat VCU in their national semifinal matchup on Saturday, they'll need Mack to play the way he's been playing thus far.
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Behind head coach Brad Stevens, Butler has quickly become one of the most fundamentally sound teams in the entire country—and it took a mere two seasons to get to that point.
Physicality, consistency, rebounding and solid defense have taken Butler to consecutive Final Four appearances and could put them over the top this season.
Stevens is the backbone of Butler's success, and it will be apparent in their matchup against VCU.
5. Matt Howard
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As impressive as Shelvin Mack has been in Butler's unprecedented NCAA tournament run, one such player has proved to be worth every penny of his scholarship. That player would be none other than Matt Howard.
In the Bulldogs' 2010 run to the championship game, Howard averaged just under eight points game. This season, Howard has elevated his game to new heights, averaging just over 16 critical points per game in Butler's 2011 Final Four run.
When the game is on the line and Butler is in need of a desperate rebound, Howard will be in on the play.
Can he carry the Bulldogs past VCU in the Final Four?