November 14, 2006
That's why they play the games, my friends.
When the brackets came out for the NIT preseason tip-off, most people thought Conseco Fieldhouse would feature a battle between Indiana and Notre Dame for a trip to the Big Apple.
Somebody forgot to tell Butler of the Horizon League about the plan. Todd Lickliter's Bulldogs took a bite out of the teams from the Big East and Big Ten to earn a spot in the semifinals of the NIT.
Pretty good for a team picked to finish sixth in the Horizon League this season!
Are you kidding me? There is no way that Bulldogs squad will finish that low in the conference. It is a well-schooled unit that can normally shoot the trifecta. Butler plays solid team defense and for two nights, it rallied to find a way to win.
Notre Dame had an eight-point lead. Indiana had a double-figure margin, baby! It was all about perseverance.
Butler's guard tandem of Mike Green (a transfer from Towson) and AJ Graves came through big-time against the Irish. Green was plagued by foul trouble against the Hoosiers, while Graves had a tough shooting night until clutch time. Both did the job on the foul line, combining to make their first 18 free throw attempts, and that kept Butler in the contest.
Graves made a miraculous shot with the clock winding down to ice the game. It was awesome, baby with a capital A!
The loss was a tough one for Kelvin Sampson and the Hoosiers. Indiana will bounce back, though it must adjust to foul problems. DJ White barely got off the pine against Lafayette due to foul troubles. Earl Calloway and AJ Ratliff were saddled with foul problems on Tuesday night.
The bottom line is Butler is an early-season Cinderella story. After a 40-point win at Tulane, the Bulldogs opened some eyes by taking out Notre Dame and Indiana.
It's off to the Big Apple, baby! Lickliter and his squad earned that trip with effort and determination.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.