- Obama’s regulatory agenda will cost U.S. economy $143B next year: report
- Patriot Act author on James Clapper: Fire, prosecute him
- Russia P.M. Medvedev: No amnesty for political prisoners
- Michigan GOP Senate hopeful reminds government is the ‘servant’
- Christmas, by Congress: Members mull a 15-cent tax on trees
- U.S. unemployment falls to five-year low of 7 percent; 203K jobs added
- World mourns Nelson Mandela and celebrates his life; burial set for Dec. 15
- Bill O’Reilly reminds: Nelson Mandela ‘was a communist’
- John Boehner says GOP should support gay candidates: ‘I do’
- Grass-Whopper: Pan-fried cricket burgers go over big in New York City
‘First losers’ back for another shot at Final Four
HOUSTON (AP) - Butler’s trip is 1,036 miles this year, not six. The only way players are getting to class is if they Skype. And it’s a safe bet there won’t be 30,000 Bulldog fans jamming Reliant Stadium for open practice Friday.
The hometown lovefest that surrounded Butler at last year’s Final Four is gone. This is a road trip, not a “Hoosiers” remake, and the Bulldogs want something better than second place this time.
“We feel like we were just the first losers from last year’s tournament,” Shelvin Mack said Thursday.
Now that’s a little harsh.
The Bulldogs delighted the country last year, giving the Final Four a distinctly warm-and-fuzzy feel. They were a mid-major crashing the power schools’ party, and doing it just down the road from their campus made the story even better. The players were in class between practices and interviews like the rest of Butler’s 4,200 students, and future NBA lottery pick Gordon Hayward even managed to make it back to his hometown church for Easter services with his family.
The memory that sticks most with the Bulldogs, though, is how it ended. Butler held its own against Duke in the national title game, coming within a half-court shot by Hayward that bounced off the rim of winning the whole thing.
A loss is a loss, no matter how impressive the effort.
“The feeling I had after we lost. That’s one of the worst feelings,” Shawn Vanzant said, not hesitating when asked what he remembers most from last year. “To work so hard and come so close and fall a little bit short, that’s been driving me all year.”
Added Ronald Nored, “I don’t want to come here and be defeated twice.”
Butler (27-9) plays VCU, this year’s version of the plucky underdog after going from the “First Four” to the Final Four, in the national semifinals Saturday night.
That Butler is even back at the Final Four is impressive. Only a dozen other schools have managed it since the tournament expanded in 1985, and the list reads like a Who’s Who of college basketball: Duke. North Carolina. Kentucky. Kansas. UCLA. Michigan State, just to name a few. (Michigan did it, too, but the Fab Five’s appearances were later vacated by the NCAA.) Butler has managed it despite losing Hayward, who led the Bulldogs in scoring (15.5 points) and rebounds (8.2), and two other veterans who got significant playing time, Willie Veasley and Avery Jukes.
The Bulldogs still had Mack, Nored, Vanzant, a trio of sweet-shooting and smooth-passing guards, and Matt Howard, their second-leading rebounder and third-leading scorer last year. But they had to rely heavily on Chase Stigall, who was on the floor for all of 44 minutes last year; Andrew Smith, who scored 24 points; and a freshman, Khyle Marshall.
The growing pains were obvious midway through the Horizon League season, when the Bulldogs lost four of five games, including a stretch of three straight. Once one of the country’s stingiest teams, they were giving up points in bunches.
Forget getting back to the Final Four. Many wondered whether Butler could even get back to the tournament.
“The few losses we had, it was tough, especially coming off the season before,” Nored said. “You have a lot of guys who want to be good, right away. But that took a second to build. It took a second for this team to be where we are now. I really think it took until the beginning of February for us to get to this point.”
- Spike in battlefield deaths linked to restrictive rules of engagement
- Activists urge Obama to go rogue, sidestep Congress
- Bill OReilly reminds: Nelson Mandela was a communist
- PRUDEN: British press horrified as London's new mayor dares to proclaim the truth
- Obama administration issues permits for wind farms to kill more eagles
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- MILLER: Obamacare enrollees include 101 members of the House of Representatives
- 'Hunger Games' delivers Obama's message on income inequality
- Inside China: Nuclear submarines capable of widespread attack on U.S.
- Obama downplays IRS scandal, blames Obamacare rollout on 'outdated' agencies
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
A politically conservative and morally liberal Hebrew alpha male hunts left-wing viper
This column will cover anything that has anything remotely to do with the game of baseball, from the game itself to mid-summer trades to offseason moves.
Entertainment News and Reviews from Washington, D.C. and beyond.
Political satirist and Christian apologist Bob Siegel discusses religion and politics.
White House pets gone wild!