Butler’s step up to the big time signified by charter flights?

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Welp, I think we can officially say that Butler has made it as a high-major, nationally relevant program.

And it’s not because they hosted College Gameday on Saturday or have managed to climb into the top ten while missing their leading scorer. It’s not because they made the jump to the Atlantic 10 and are considering making the leap to the new league formed by the Big East’s Catholic 7. It isn’t even because the Bulldogs made back-to-back national title games and have the best, young head coach in the business running the show.

It has nothing to do with their success.

And everything to do with … their travel? According to David Woods, the Butler beat-writer for the Indy Star, the Bulldogs no longer take busses to every game. They fly, sometimes commercial but usually charter flights. They’ll be flying charter to La Salle for Wednesday’s game and will be taking a charter to every Atlantic 10 road game for the rest of the season.

That comes at a cost:

Depending on the destination and length of flights, charters can run from $20,000 to nearly $40,000. Butler schedules charters through Anthony Travel, the same company used by Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame and about 30 other Division I schools. Tim Lindgren of Anthony Travel said the company acts as a liaison with travel brokers.

Butler once called on donors to help with fundraising so the team could fly by charter, but now the cost is budgeted. Butler coach Brad Stevens said the university recognized travel expense would increase when Butler left the Horizon League to join the Atlantic 10.

Stevens said the charters are “part of investing and doing it the right way.”

By “investing and doing it the right way”, Stevens is saying that this is how the Bulldogs go from being a blip on the radar to having longevity as a contender, something that can be sustained even if Stevens decides to leave for another job.

There’s a convenience level at work here as well.

Butler’s playing a more national schedule. The Atlantic 10 is much more spread out than the Horizon League. Longer trips mean more potential travel pitfalls. Flying coach means a flight could be delayed. Taking a bus means that the team may not make it back from a game until 4 a.m.

Chartering a flight not only allows the Bulldogs to schedule their travel around practices and classes, but it means that players will have that much more time to study, work out and sleep.

Being able to afford those luxuries makes you one of the big boys.

Butler won when there wasn’t a level playing field. Now they spend like a high-major.

So watch out.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

2017 NCAA Tournament Final Four schedule, tip times, and announcer pairings

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National Semifinals– Saturday, April 1

6:09 p.m. EST, CBS, Glendale
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

Approximately 40 minutes after conclusion of first game, CBS, Glendale
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 3 Oregon (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

VIDEO: The insane final 10 seconds of North Carolina’s win over Kentucky

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North Carolina and Kentucky ended in legendary fashion on Sunday.

After freshman Malik Monk buried a heavily-contested three-pointer to tie the game at 73-all for Kentucky with under 10 seconds left the Tar Heels didn’t use a timeout as Theo Pinson found forward Luke Maye for the game-winning jumper.

These 10 seconds will go down as one of the greatest finishes in NCAA Tournament history.

No. 1 seed North Carolina outlasts No. 2 seed Kentucky to advance to the Final Four

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North Carolina advanced to the Final Four for the second consecutive season and 20th time overall as the No. 1 seed Tar Heels outlasted No. 2 seed Kentucky, 75-73, during Sunday’s South Regional final in Memphis.

Reserve forward Luke Maye knocked in the game-winning jumper for the Tar Heels with 0.3 seconds left to break a 73-all tie after Kentucky’s Malik Monk tied the game with a three-pointer on the previous possession.

The Tar Heels (31-7) overcame an ankle issue from junior point guard Joel Berry as North Carolina was led by Justin Jackson’s 19 points.

Maye also stepped up with a big game for North Carolina as he continued his strong March with 17 points. Berry added 11 points, as he went to the locker room during the first half to get his ankle looked at before returning to play later in the half.

Kentucky (32-6) won the regular-season matchup of these teams, 103-100, in Las Vegas in December as their freshmen guards struggled to perform on Sunday. After De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk combined for 71 points in that previous win over the Tar Heels, the two freshmen studs couldn’t get going.

Both of them dealt with first-half foul trouble as Fox finished with 13 points while Monk was held to 12 points. Also battling foul trouble in the first half, freshman Bam Adebayo added 13 points for the Wildcats.

With Fox and Monk struggling to generate consistent offense, the Wildcats were able to stay in the game thanks to great performances from reserves like Isaac Humphries (career-high 12 points) and senior Dominique Hawkins (10 points.

North Carolina advances to face No. 3 seed Oregon in next weekend’s Final Four.

VIDEO: South Carolina celebrates Final Four trip by dousing Frank Martin in water

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South Carolina earned its first trip to the Final Four with its win over SEC-rival Florida on Sunday.

The Gamecocks made sure to celebrate properly when head coach Frank Martin hit the locker room after the game by dousing him in water before Martin gave another speech.

https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/846124174259118080/video/1

VIDEO: Darius Rucker tears up as South Carolina advances to the Final Four

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Darius Rucker, the former front man of Hootie and the Blowfish and a current star in the country music world, is a lifelong South Carolina Gamecocks fan.

This isn’t really a secret.

Hell, on Friday night at a concert he was playing, Rucker set up TVs so that he would be able to watch South Carolina take on Baylor:

You probably didn’t realize just how big of a fan he actually is until you saw him, sitting second row at the regional final in New York City on Sunday afternoon, tearing up as the Gamecocks advanced to the Final Four:

Let ’em cry, Darius, if the tears fall down like rain.