Last Year’s Ultimate Cinderella, Butler, Is Back in Big Dance

The Butler Bulldogs are back! OK, maybe there wasn’t really the need for that exclamation point. But the fact that last year’s ultimate Cinderella team is going to be in the NCAA tournament field is pretty exciting. Butler, a five seed a year ago, made a run all the way to the national championship, where it fell to Duke in a very close game. But before you go picking the Bulldogs to make another Final Four run, take a step back and consider whether you really believe that will happen or not. This year, Butler finished in a three-way tie for the Horizon League championship and lost to Wisconsin-Milwaukee twice in the regular season before beating the Panthers in the conference tournament title game. The Bulldogs have won nine games in a row, but lost to Youngstown State during the regular season and in big non-conference games against Louisville and Duke, they lost by double digits. I’m not here to tell you what to do with your bracket, but you may wish to consider in a new Cinderella instead of sticking with that of yesteryear. Brad Stevens joined 1o7o The Fan in Indianapolis with The Ride to discuss winning the Horizon League tournament, where Butler will end up in the NCAA tournament, what he likes most about his team right now, when he saw the Bulldogs turning things around and what he’ll do with a weekend where he doesn’t have to worry.

On winning the conference tournament, beating Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the finals:

“We had been beaten twice. … You’re playing for a conference championship and a chance to go to the NCAA tournament. We kind of sold the whole week as, hey, there was a three-way tie for first and we get to play them both. I think that was something that we wanted to win our own outright championship in our minds.”

Where does he think Butler will end up in the tournament?:

“This one’s a little bit tougher because we don’t really know where we’d be seeded, but the bottom line is that we’re just excited to be in it and we’ll go wherever they tell us. … Send us wherever you want, we’re just ready to play.”

What did he like most about what he saw in his team in the Horizon title tilt?:

“I’m more excited about the way our team responded mid-season. They always say the cream rises to the top. … That doesn’t mean that you’re going to get the results that you want, but the way that our team played in the last nine games with the focus, the attention to detail … really had me excited.”

Was there a moment when he knew his team would turn it around and make the tournament?:

“I saw it turn around in the Youngstown State game, we just couldn’t score. For whatever reason, we just didn’t play well at the end of that game. … That was the first sign that, hey, we’re making the right strides. Certainly the result was disappointing and everybody that’s not directly involved with our program found that to be a pretty tough loss from afar, but I saw a lot of growth in that game.”

On getting to enjoy the weekend without having to worry about whether they’ll make the tournament:

“Usually at this time of year, if you don’t win your conference tournament, you’re like tracking every game and you’re watching. … Now, my only rooting interests are my friends that I have in coaching and the people that I know. I’m going to be a fan like everybody else.”

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