NEW ORLEANS – Florida coach Billy Donovan looks at the Butler Bulldogs and sees a team built to succeed in the NCAA tournament.
And that’s just what Butler has done over the course of the last two seasons under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens.
“They are the most physical team in the country,” Donovan said. “Teams that are bigger, and stronger than them, it means absolutely nothing. They do a great job of initiating physical confrontation.
“That’s the way they play.”
That will be a crucial story line today as second-seeded Florida (29-7) faces No. 8 seed Butler (26-9) in the championship game of the NCAA Southeast Regional. Florida has bigger, stronger players than the Bulldogs, just as it did in Thursday night’s 83-74 overtime victory over Jimmer Fredette and the BYU Cougars.
But Wisconsin had the same sort of edge on Butler, and it meant next to nothing.
The Badgers missed 17 consecutive shots at one point, and the Bulldogs survived a couple shaky moments down the stretch to win 61-54.
Now Butler is one victory away from returning to a Final Four far more improbable than last year’s runner-up finish.
On the surface, at least.
“People are going to make runs on you, people are going to make shots on you,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said. “You’re going to make mistakes. But if your preparation is good, and your will is good and you’re all in together, you’ll have a shot at the end.”
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