The Butler University Bulldogs have pushed and pulled their way through to the Final Four for a second consecutive year. In 2010, the Bulldogs were a 5-seed that surprised the nation by winning 5 games (4 by less than 10 points) before losing to Duke University in the national championship game. The small private school is located in Indianapolis, Indiana and home to 4,400 students. A runner-up prize in 2010 was thought to be a great story, but nobody expected them to do it again.
Lots of people (including myself) wrote them off early due to their up-and-down season (23-9, 13-5 in Horizon League) and the 2nd round matchup with 1-seed and Big East powerhouse, Pittsburgh. We were wrong. The team has gelled together at the right time and have to be considered a favorite in their upcoming semi-final matchup with 11-seed Cinderella story, VCU. Led by the strong senior leadership of Matt Howard (16.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and terrific guard play of Shelvin Mack (15.2 ppg, 3.2 apg), the Butler Bulldogs have won 12 in a row after losing 4 of 5 in Horizon League play.
Their tournament run has included late game heroics from Howard (GW layup vs. ODU, GW free throw vs. Pitt), a dominant, physical performance against a bigger Wisconsin team, and a comeback OT victory against Florida. Butler seems to be able to match any style of play they go up against and out-perform their opponents in the intangibles. Their hustle, aggressiveness, and never-say-die attitude has them poised to shock the world.
Their passion and energy all starts at the top. Butler’s coach, Brad Stevens, is a 34 year old nerdy-looking bro that committed himself to becoming a winning coach upon his graduation from Depauw University (where he played 101 games as point guard for the basketball team). After graduating from school, Stevens was offered a high-paying job at pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly and Company. After a brief stint working at Eli Lilly, Stevens was offered a volunteer position in Butler’s basketball office. With his future on the line, Stevens chose to quit his job with Eli Lilly and take the volunteer position. He worked at Applebee’s to help pay the bills and spent several months living in his friends’ basement. After seven years of moving up the ranks, Brad Stevens was named the Head Coach of Butler University in 2007. From then on, he has done a terrific job with the team, making the NCAA Tournament four years in a row and now two consecutive appearances in the Final Four. His coaching future has been the topic of lots of rumors and debate around the sports world, but he has committed himself to Butler until the 2021-22 season. I see a very bright future from coach Brad Stevens and expect big things in the years to come from this small university…Applebee’s to dancing all the way to the Final Four, not too bad for a nerd.