ANOTHER FINAL FOUR FOR BUTLER
It’s different yet so familiar. Butler is once again in a Final Four, the third straight year for the Bulldogs’ program. Not the same, but the same intent. Coach Brad Stevens has said, “We are always in the tournaments to win.”
After magical runs through the past two NCAA tourneys, Butler on Wednesday will host Pittsburgh with the winner advancing to the finals of the 5th annual College Basketball Invitational presented by Zebra Pen. They are perfect examples of why the CBI has become an important fixture in March.
As the tournament has changed for Butler, so has the team they have become. No longer a three point shooting machine with veterans, this edition relies on underclassmen a pair of sophomores and a freshman in the starting lineup. Pitt was considered one of the top ten teams in the country entering the season but they have been hit by injuries as hard as any team in the nation, which have forced 11 different players to start this season. The Panthers have used seven starting lineups to compensate for an array of set backs ranging from knee surgeries to concussions.
Each team is playing at their best. Butler has won 22 games and has put together back-to-back impressive wins over Delaware and Penn. Pitt has won four of the last six with a dominating win against Princeton Monday night.
“The extra practice, the extra games is what we looked at when we looked at playing in the CBI. We only saw positives and we looked at what other teams have done in this tournament to prepare for the next season with success.” Stevens noted.
Like Butler, Pitt has the bulk of their team returning next season, threatening to become that young team on the rise that has been the trademark of CBI teams who have parlayed this tourney into NCAA showings.
The game takes place in historic Hinkle Fieldhouse which is as famous for the climatic scene in the classic sports movie “Hoosiers”, as is it for die hard hoop fans nationwide. It is an appropriate venue for the semi-final for there is history with the Bulldogs and Panthers, recent history. Last year Butler beat Pitt 71-70 in the third round of the NCAA tournament. This will mark the 14th time the programs have met on the hardwood with Butler holding an 8-5 advantage in the series.
The winner of this game will probably enter the best of three CBI championship next week as the favorite over either of the Pac 12 teams in the other semi-final, Oregon State and Washington State.
It is March, there is a tournament and there are two teams with something to prove in a Final Four game with title implications ahead. The arena is an iconic place. This has all the ingredients for a special night of hoop action. Tipoff is 8 PM ET on HDNet.
Watch the College Basketball Invitational presented by Zebra Pen Wednesday night March 21st on HDNet as Pittsburgh takes on Butler followed by Washington State taking on Oregon State. Sit courtside with us and follow all the action on our facebook page and by using the #CBI hashtag on twitter
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