Eye of the Hurricane

March 26, 2011

Brad Stevens making another Final Four run

By DAVID FURONES

A major accomplishment for a mid-major program.

Most mid-majors are content with winning their conference and making the tournament, maybe even advancing to the round of 32 with a first round upset. Or if they make it through to the Sweet 16, they’re throwing parades on campus.

Not Butler.

With a 74-71 overtime win against Florida Saturday, Butler will, for the second consecutive season, play in the NCAA Tournament’s national semifinal. They await Sunday’s winner in the Kansas-Virginia Commonwealth Elite Eight matchup to determine who they’ll play in Houston.

After Brad Stevens’ squad made the Cinderella run through the brackets as a five seed a year ago to the Final Four in Butler University’s hometown of Indianapolis, IN, and then came within one good-looking, lined up Gordon Hayward halfcourt heave to beating national powerhouse Duke, the Bulldogs are at it again this year– this time as a No. 8 seed that many didn’t even have advancing passed ninth seeded Old Dominion in their bracket, or God forbid defeating Pittsburgh to get the Sweet 16.

Stevens is making a magical run once again and is propelling himself into the conversation of the nation’s elite college basketball coaches at the age of 34.

What makes the Butler’s accomplishment, coming out of the Horizon League, more special than that of Colonial Athletic Association’s George Mason in 2006 is the bit of consistency they’ve managed and established. George Mason was marvelous reaching the Final Four that season, beating storied programs like Michigan State, UNC, and Connecticut en route to their loss to eventual national champion Florida, but it was a fluke.

Butler’s success is no fluke for the mere fact that they’ve done what they’ve done twice.

Now we’ll watch on Sunday to see if the Bulldogs will face the basketball juggernaut Kansas or the Cinderella VCU to get back to the national championship game.

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