Butler’s buzzer beater

This ending is amazing, and check out the reaction of Butler’s coach Brad Stevens.

Hat tip: Gregg Doyel

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Don’t forget about Brad Stevens and Butler

Butler’s head coach Brad Stevens cheers on his team during the NCAA National Championship college basketball game against Duke in Indianapolis, Indiana, April 5, 2010. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

This moment of madness brought to you by Muscle Milk®. It’s powerful protein. Drink. Evolve™

Much of the attention this week has been devoted to Shaka Smart and Virginia Commonwealth, and deservedly so. But let’s take a moment to appreciate what Brad Stevens and the Butler Bulldogs have done over the last two seasons.

Last year, when Butler (a #5-seed) knocked off Syracuse and Kansas State to make the Final Four, there was a lot of Cinderella talk. But since #11-seed VCU made it to Houston this year, people are sleeping on the #8-seeded Bulldogs. They lost their best player (Gordon Hayward) and two other rotation players (Willie Veasley and Avery Jukes), replacing them with Andrew Smith, Khyle Marshall and Chase Stigall, none of whom average more than 24 minutes per game or 8.8 points per game. So this is essentially the same team as last year’s minus an NBA player (Hayward) who is getting healthy minutes off the Utah Jazz bench. And they still made the Final Four, upending three of the top four seeds in their region along the way.

Much of the credit goes to Stevens, who in early February wrangled a 14-9 team that was in a tailspin coming off three straight losses to UW-Milwaukee, Valparaiso and Youngstown State. At that point, the Bulldogs’ tourney hopes were on life support, and they needed to string some wins together to even have a shot to make the postseason. Over the next month, they rattled off nine-straight victories, including wins over Cleveland St. and UW-Milwaukee in the Horizon League Championship to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

To fill the scoring void left by Hayward, Matt Howard stepped up his average from 11.6 to 16.7, while also bringing rebounding (7.7 per game), three point shooting (42.6%), along with unequaled grit and hustle. Howard is the team’s heart, but when they need a shot, they turn to Shelvin Mack, the team’s best offensive player. This kid has hit some huge shots over the last two seasons.

But the real reason that the Bulldogs have made a repeat appearance in the Final Four is that they’re back to playing championship caliber defense, which is something that they struggled with for most of the season. In four tournament games, they’re holding opponents to a stingy 41% shooting from the field, and just 30% from the three-point line. They’ll have to defend the three well if they hope to beat the Rams, who are hitting 44% from distance in the tourney.

Given their matchup with an #11-seed, the Bulldogs are in the unusual position of being the favorite. If Saturday’s game comes down to the final few possessions, one has to believe that Stevens and the Bulldogs have the necessary experience and moxie to pull out a win. A team’s personality generally reflects its coach, and Stevens is the model of poise on the sideline. His teams never seem to get rattled.

Two consecutive Final Four appearances by a mid-major program? That’s one heck of an accomplishment.

So let’s take a moment to appreciate Brad Stevens and the Bulldogs.

2010 Year-End Sports Review: What We Learned

Years from now, when people look back on 2010, what will they remember as the defining sports moment? Uh, they can only pick one? We discovered that Tiger Woods likes to play the field and that Brett Favre doesn’t mind sending pictures of his anatomy to hot sideline reporters via text message. We found out that LeBron listens to his friends a little too much and that Ben Roethlisberger needed a serious lesson in humility. But we also learned that athletes such as Michael Vick and Josh Hamilton haven’t blown second chance opportunities (or third and fourth chances in the case of Hamilton). It was also nice to see a certain pitcher turn down bigger money so that he can play in a city that he loves.

We’ve done our best to recap the year’s biggest sports stories, staying true to tradition by breaking our Year End Sports Review into three sections: What We Learned, What We Already Knew, and What We Think Might Happen. Up first are the things we learned in 2010, a list that’s littered with scandal, beasts, a Decision and yes, even a little Jenn Sterger.

Contributors: Anthony Stalter, John Paulsen, Paul Costanzo, Drew Ellis and Mike Farley

Tiger Woods gets around.

We hesitate to put this under “golf” because the only clubs involved were his wife’s nine-iron hitting the window of his SUV and the various establishments where Tiger wined and dined all of his mistresses…over a dozen in all. This was the biggest story of the early part of the year, but it got to the point that whenever a new alleged mistress came forward, the general public was like, “Yeah, we get it. Tiger screwed around on his wife. A lot.” He has spent the rest of the year attempting to rebuild his once-squeaky clean image, but it’s safe to say, we’ll never look at Tiger the same way.

Golfer Tiger Woods apologizes for irresponsible and selfish behavior during his first public statement to a small gathering of reporters and friends at the headquarters of the U.S. PGA Tour in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida,on February 19, 2010.   UPI/Sam Greenwood/Pool Photo via Newscom

LeBron wilts when his team needs him most.

Say the words “LeBron” and “Game 5” in the same sentence and NBA fans everywhere know exactly what you’re talking about. In the biggest game of the season, LeBron looked disinterested, going 3-of-14 from the field en route to a 120-88 blowout at home at the hands of the Celtics. There were rumors swirling about a possible relationship between LeBron’s mom and his teammate, Delonte West, and there’s speculation that LeBron got that news before tipoff and that’s why he played so poorly. Regardless of the cause, LeBron played awful in that game, and it turned out to be his swan song in Cleveland as a member of the Cavaliers. Talk about leaving a bitter taste.

You can auction off your talented son’s athletic abilities and get away with it.

The NCAA set a strange precedent this season while dealing with the Newton family. The always inconsistent and completely morally uncorrupt NCAA decided in its infinite wisdom that despite discovering that Cecil Newton shopped his son Cam to Mississippi State for $180,000, and that is a violation of NCAA rules, that Cam would still be eligible because it couldn’t be proven that he knew about it. Conference commissioners and athletic directors around the country spoke out about the decision, while agent-wannabes and greedy fathers everywhere had a light bulb go off in their own heads: As long as we say the player doesn’t know about it, it could go off without a hitch. What was Cecil’s punishment in this whole thing? Limited access to Auburn for the last two games of the season. Easy with that hammer there, NCAA. Read the rest of this entry »

Brad Stevens signs 12-year extension

Looks like Brad Stevens is staying put, at least until 2021.

The 33-year-old coach, who came within a buzzer-beating shot of winning the NCAA men’s basketball championship, signed a 12-year deal Thursday that extends through the 2021-22 season.

Man, Butler doesn’t screw around. Stevens was generating interest from Oregon and Clemson, and Butler stepped up and signed the coach to a LONG-term deal.

Will Brad Stevens stay put?

ESPN rumors reports on the possibility of Brad Stevens taking a job elsewhere.

Given that the school can’t afford to pay Stevens a top salary, it probably can’t make his buyout price high enough to faze a BCS-level school either.

One thing that’s working in the school’s favor is time. The run to the championship game means many schools that had Stevens in mind have already filled their positions. With Oliver Purnell going to DePaul and BC looking ready to hire Cornell’s Steve Donahue, Oregon and now Clemson are the only schools that can offer a world-beating financial package.

The Register-Guard reports that Oregon AD Pat Kilkenny was in Indianapolis this weekend and reportedly has his eye on Stevens:

Read the rest of this entry »

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