Gonzaga-Butler matchup has it all
INDIANAPOLIS – Not too much missing in this matchup.
Both teams are on a roll: No. 8 Gonzaga (17-1) with eight straight wins; No. 13 Butler (15-2) has won 12 in row.
Both so-called midmajor programs (neither coach endorses the label) have demonstrated staying power on the national scene: Gonzaga with 14 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, Butler played for the national championship in 2010 and 2011.
Both directed by highly successful coaches: Gonzaga’s Mark Few and Butler’s Brad Stevens. Their names surface for high-profile jobs every off season but they seem quite comfortable at their current posts.
One historic building: Hinkle Fieldhouse, where the championship game was filmed in the movie “Hoosiers.” Add in ESPN’s College GameDay Saturday morning and Dan Shulman and Dick Vitale courtside for the 6 PST tipoff on ESPN and, as we said, not too much missing in this one.
“Butler is one of the great programs in college basketball and it starts at the top with Brad,” GU coach Mark Few said. “He does a phenomenal job, very detail oriented and they’re probably one of the most physical teams in college basketball. They don’t give you any easy looks, and at the other end they have a 100 different sets and we won’t have any time to prepare for them” after playing Thursday at Portland.
“I’ve always looked at Butler and liked what they did,” Gonzaga senior forward Mike Hart said. “I really like the way they play. I’m excited to go in and play them, and the building is kind of legendary.”
That would be Hinkle Fieldhouse, where tiny Milan High – it was Hickory High on the big screen – won the 1954 state championship.
“I love going into all these gyms and looking at them and how they’re built,” Zags guard David Stockton said. “This one is kind of cool because of the movie, but you’re not going to see me on Kelly Olynyk’s shoulders measuring the hoop.”
No, Stockton will leave that famous “Hoosiers” scene to Strap and Ollie.
“Obviously, I loved the movie; it’s a neat movie,” Few said. “I don’t get too nostalgic; I probably need to be a little bit more. But to me it’s, ‘We’re playing, where we playing, let’s get it on.’”
This will be the first time Hinkle has hosted a meeting of top-15 teams. Butler is trying to make some history of its own. Butler, which knocked off No. 9 North Carolina and No. 1 Indiana, has never defeated three top-10 teams in one season.
Both teams lost to Illinois. Butler thumped Richmond on Wednesday without leading scorer Rotnei Clarke, who also will miss tonight’s game with a neck injury. Gonzaga hasn’t lost since falling to the Illini, a stretch that includes victories over Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Saint Mary’s.
“It’s Butler at Butler, they’re going to play their tails off,” said GU assistant coach Tommy Lloyd, who compiled the scouting report. “It’s their attention to detail, their execution. They never take a play off.”