Butler is coming home to the Final Four after Elite Eight win over Kansas State
Sunday, March 28, 2010
SALT LAKE CITY -- Hinkle Fieldhouse is only about a six-mile drive from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. But it took a winding journey for Butler to get from one to the other.
The Bulldogs' path from their home gym to the site of this season's Final Four went through San Jose and then stopped here in Salt Lake City. But after a charmed run through the NCAA tournament, Butler is coming home to Indianapolis as a Final Four team.
Fifth-seeded Butler defeated second-seeded Kansas State, 63-56, here on Saturday to win the West Region and advance to the first Final Four in program history.
Butler Coach Brad Stevens addressed the crowd in the celebration afterward. "The city of Indy," he said, "we're coming home!"
After the final buzzer sounded, the Bulldogs rushed onto the floor and piled onto one another at midcourt. Some Butler fans clasped hands over their mouths and had tears in their eyes, while others showered the Bulldogs with chants of "let's go home!"
Butler will face the winner of the Midwest Region final between No. 5 Michigan State and No. 6 Tennessee next Saturday night.
"It's a great for our university," Butler Athletic Director Barry Collier said, "and it will be a special thing for our team and the city."
Bulldogs sophomore forward Gordon Hayward led the way with 22 points and was named the West Region's most outstanding player.
Butler (32-4) is the first so-called "mid-major" team to reach the Final Four since George Mason in 2006. But these Bulldogs are champions of the Horizon League and are riding a 24-game winning streak. In 2006, the Patriots finished third in the Colonial Athletic Association that season and were a No. 11 seed in the NCAA tournament.
"It's okay to call us a mid-major, by the way," Stevens said. "Cinderella, whatever you want to call us, we still get to play. That's good."
Kansas State (29-8) was out of sync offensively and looked sluggish less than 48 hours after its double-overtime win over Xavier on Thursday.
Butler grabbed 12 more rebounds despite being forced to play stretches without 6-foot-8 forward Matt Howard, who got into foul trouble. Freshman Andrew Smith, who is 6-11 and who had yet to play in the NCAA tournament, put in 12 solid minutes against Kansas State's athletic forwards.