Butler reached its second straight Final Four by beating Florida 74-71 in overtime on Saturday in the Southeast Regional final.
Here’s a rundown of the reaction.
Let it sink in: back-to-back Final Fours. That rarely happens even to college basketball’s royalty, the North Carolinas and Dukes and UCLAs. But Butler? Teeny-tiny, humble, unassuming Butler? As sweet and wonderful and novel as it was the first time around, this second time will be even more redolent with meaning.
— Bob Kravitz, Indianapolis Star
Certainly Butler has funded its program at a higher level than is customary for the Horizon League, in terms of travel and compensation for coach Brad Stevens. The brand they have built extended their recruiting reach a bit, but their primary focus remains Indiana and a few surrounding areas, such as Cincinnati or Lexington, and they’re not hunting the elite prospects in that region. They’re scouting for Butler Bulldogs. And what does that mean? In the way that Derrick Rose might be the ideal point guard or Shaquille O’Neal the prototypical center, Howard, a 6-8 senior power forward from nearby Connersville, would represent the Butler template.
— Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News
Is this whole thing a trick up the sleeve of college basketball’s young wizard of the sideline, who’s reached two Final Fours in four years at the helm? If you thought what you witnessed last season, with Butler reaching the Final Four and subsequent title game against Duke as a No. 5 seed, then coming within Gordon Hayward’s near-miss Hail Mary of a national championship, was stunning, what’s happened in 2011 is on another level. The Butler-Duke epic, staged on home turf at Lucas Oil Stadium, could have gone down as the greatest moment in the history of the Bulldogs’ program, and they might have been fine with it. Mid-majors so rarely make the Final Four — there was George Mason in 2006, and before that, Penn and Indiana State in 1979 — and even less often the title game. But a Final Four repeat? The last four teams to do that are North Carolina, UCLA and Florida and Michigan State. Those aren’t No. 8 seeds from the Horizon League, they’re major-conference powerhouses. Butler is in their league now. Don’t ever again call it a Cinderella.
— Luke Winn, SI.com
(In fact, Winn’s story is so good, I highly encourage you to click the link and read it all, right now.)
[Butler] is the embodiment of an overachieving group of athletes dedicated to one single goal, led by one of the brightest and boldest coaches in all of sports. They defy everything that is elite, everything that is supposed to happen, everything that the numbers tell you is probably going to happen.
— Nick Fasulo, Searching for Billy Edelin
Two trips to a place more prestigious programs never have gone, and the country still looks upon the Bulldogs as an oddity: a small-conference school with a child coach who must win the small-school way – with fortune and 3-point shots. But an image gleaned by a public that peripherally is paying attention belies the fact that Butler might be about the toughest team in college basketball. No other school in the land would dare to see an advantage in the other team holding the ball with the game in its hands.
— Les Carpenter, Yahoo! Sports
They’re called winning plays. Butler has made them for the past few years under Stevens, and to some extent long before that under Barry Collier, Thad Matta and Todd Lickliter. Over the past decade and more, those coaches have made this one of the most consistent programs in the country.
— Andy Katz, ESPN.com
The Bulldogs saw [former star Gordon Hayward] suit up for the Utah Jazz. They lost their best defender to graduation. They stumbled through much of the regular season before winning nine straight, including two games in the Horizon League Tournament, just to get to the dance. That is what makes this year’s run to the Final Four so impressive.
— Rob Dauster, Ballin’ Is a Habit
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