NCAA Tournament 2011: 5 Reasons Why Butler Is This Year's Cinderella
It's already the Sweet 16, and there are still plenty of potential Cinderellas out there. I picked one of the five eight-or-below seeds that still remain alive.
I could have gone with Florida State, with their stellar defense and intimidating front-court. I also could have selected their counterpart in upstart VCU, who is shutting up those who said that they didn't belong in the Big Dance. Another route I could have taken is Richmond, who could cause fits for Kansas with their Princeton-reminiscent offense.
Marquette would not be a bad pick, as they have the Big East's pride on their shoulders. But I'm choosing the team that many overlooked in their brackets, and that is the Butler Bulldogs.
Here's why Butler is this year's Cinderella.
5. They Have a Go-to Guy
All the great teams have that player that they can look for to end a drought, get a timely basket, or hit a game-winner. UConn has Kemba Walker. BYU has Jimmer Fredette. Duke has Nolan Smith. North Carolina has Harrison Barnes. The Butler Bulldogs have their own go-to guy in the form of Shelvin Mack.
Mack lit up Pittsbugh in the Third Round upset of the One-Seeded Panthers. Shelvin dropped an impressive 30 points on Pitt, while shooting 10-16 from the field, including 7-12 from distance. He proved to be their leader on the offensive side of the ball. While he did make a bone-head foul with two seconds remaining, he was the real reason why the Bulldogs advanced to the round of 16.
If Shelvin Mack can put up big numbers for Butler, look for the Bulldogs to be playing in Houston.
4. Brad Stevens
Though he may look like a college kid, his coaching ability indicates otherwise. The 34-year-old coach has accomplished a lot in his short stint as a coach. He has pushed Butler way ahead of the rest of the Horizon League and has taken the league title in four straight seasons. He also has gone dancing each of his four years at the helm of Butler, and nearly beat Duke last year in the National Championship Game.
If you haven't noticed up to this point, Brad Stevens can flat out coach. He has the pedigree of a seasoned coach in only his fourth season as the top man at Butler. Behind Stevens' superb coaching, I can see Butler dancing deep into March.
3. They Won't Be Intimidated Down Low
Last year, Butler was a little weak in the paint. Although they made their run to the National Championship Game, I always questioned their post game with scrawny Gordon Hayward and true Power Forward Matt Howard.
This year, Matt Howard is playing his natural position at Power Forward. They have 6'11" true Center Andrew Smith at the 5-spot. Smith has complimented Howard nicely down low, averaging just under nine PPG to this point.
If you ask me, the Bulldogs have the most intimidating front-court in their region. They have a bit more size than their next opponent Wisconsin. The other two squads in their region, Florida and BYU, lack a true center.
Regarding Florida, they do have three players standing at 6'10", but only Vernon Macklin can face up to Andrew Smith (Chandler Parsons and Erik Murphy are soft forwards). BYU doesn't do much in terms of rebounding, especially with the recent loss of Brandon Davies.
If one of Butler's games comes down to the battle in the paint, look for the Bulldogs to come out on top.
2. They've Been Here Before
Sure, Butler lost two starters from last year's runner-up squad, one of them being NBA lottery pick Gordon Hayward. But there are some key returning players, six to be exact, from that magical squad that shocked the nation.
You don't have to look any further than veterans Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack. They played a major part in the Cinderella run from a year ago. Don't think these kids aren't hungry to take what was so close to being theirs.
The experience of this Butler squad will bode well for them in the remainder of the tournament.
1. Its Destiny
Butler would love another shot at the National Title. Butler would love a shot at beating Duke for the National Title even more.
It works out that, if both advance as far as they can, Butler and Duke would face each other in a rematch of last year's finale. I'm not so superstitious, but I think it's destiny for the Bulldogs to get their second shot at the Blue Devils.
That incentive alone can drive the upset-happy Bulldogs to make a run at the National Championship.