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Marshall finished with 10 points and seven offensive rebounds, none bigger than his momentum-changing putback in overtime. The freshman not only made the basket but also completed a three-point play to give Butler a 65-62 lead against the homestate team that never bothered to recruit him.

It doesn’t get better than that.

“I kind of took that game personally because I was one of the guys downstate that they didn’t even look at,” Marshall said, referring to the Gators.

The bigger shock was seeing Hopkins on the floor.

He hadn’t even appeared in the Bulldogs’ first three tourney games and hadn’t played more than a minute in any game since Feb. 19. But Hopkins immediately delivered a nifty no-look pass to Howard for one basket, then knocked down a 3-pointer to start the run that tied the score at 57 with 3:03 left in regulation.

What was Stevens thinking?

“We were down by nine, and we had nothing positive going, really,” the coach said. “What we needed to do against that zone was to beat it off the dribble, and he’s one of three guys on our team that does that best.”

The kid who grew up in Las Vegas made Stevens‘ gamble pay off.

“Shawn (Vanzant) is always in my ear, especially during games, about being confident and ready,” Hopkins said. “So it was really exciting. I was just ready to get in and show what I could do.”

This is the traditional Butler Way.

Normally, it takes about a year for players to get comfortable with Butler’s offensive and defensive systems. Even Smith, at 6-11, was limited to 118 minutes in 38 games last season.

“I felt like even at the end of my freshman year, I didn’t really understand the whole entire system because it relies so much on trust,” Smith said. “When you don’t play a whole lot, it takes a little longer to get that down.”

But now, like Smith, Hopkins and Marshall are breaking out on a national stage.

There’s just one thing missing from this remarkable season _ winning a national championship.

“I was in Indy for the games last year, so I saw them live and I remember thinking I wish I had been born a year earlier so I could have been part of it,” Marshall said. “Now, we’re living in those same shoes and I couldn’t be happier.”