Butler shocks the world. The fact that Butler beat Kansas State isn't a surprise. Butler actually getting to the Final Four is the surprise. The Bulldogs survived a tough game against a physical UTEP team. Held off a game Murray State squad and knocked off a extremely talented Syracuse team.
This was a tough game to figure. Butler had a big problem holding onto the ball (20 turnovers). But when the Bulldogs protected the ball, they shot well. The Bulldogs hit 21 of 46 attempts (46 percent) and went 7-for-15 from three-point range.
The difference was sophomore do-it-all wingman Gordon Hayward. The 6-9 guard-forward combo had 22 points and nine rebounds. He controlled the ball well and created serious matchup problems. Shelvin Mack was hot again from behind the arc, hitting 3 of his 6 attempts.
Defensively, the Bulldogs, who are a little thin up front, held their own against a bigger frontline again. Kansas State's Curtis Kelly hurt them a bit with 14 points, but he was the only one. Center Luis Colon and forward Dominique Sutton scored just two points between them.
The Bulldogs making the Final Four should send a strong message to the NCAA selection committee: It's not all about the numbers.
It's not just Butler, though. Programs like Cornell, which I still believe was woefully underseeded, St. Mary's and Northern Iowa need to be treated with more respect when it comes to seeding. We realize these teams play in weaker conferences, but that doesn't mean their gaudy overall records should be dismissed.
Clearly the selection people didn't have any respect for the Big Red or the Ivy League. If they did Cornell would've at least been a 10th seed. St. Mary's had a fabulous regular season and beat Gonzaga in the WCC final. They get a 10th seed for their troubles, while Gonzaga got a No.9. Those teams couldn't have been granted a seventh and eighth seed?
What happened to Kentucky? On paper, it's simple. The Wildcats ran into a West Virginia team that was long and athletic.
Unlike Cornell, the Mountaineers were athletic enough to get shots off against a tough man-to-man defense by Kentucky. The Mountaineers shot just 38 percent from the field, but they hit 10 three-pointers. That was the different in the game.
West Virginia star guard Da'Sean Butler shot 4-for-15 from the field. But those four shots were three-pointers. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers' length called a lot of problems for Kentucky. The Wildcats shot 4-for-32 from three-point range.
And of course there was the free-throw shooting. I mentioned in a post during the first weekend of the tournament that a cause for concern was Kentucky's three-point shooting. It came to light on Satuday as the Wildcats hit just 16 of 29 attempts.
So there you go. Terrible three-point shooting and terrible free throw shooting did the Wildcats in.
Let's also not forget Kentucky had three freshmen in their starting lineup. Most of us were so awed by their raw talent, we dismissed the notion of three freshmen in the lineup being a problem. Freshmen John Wall, who fouled out, and DeMarcus Cousins had five turnovers each.
Surprise! Having three freshmen on the floor for a ton of minutes was a huge problem. At some point, such inexperience is bound to rear its ugly head. That still shouldn't take away from a great season by the Wildcats. With the NBA expected to come calling, could this be the last hurrah for this team?