Tag Archive: Matt Howard


The Final Countdown!


Uconn is going to need Kemba's leadership and last second heroics just one more time tonight in the National Championship game

The day has finally come! The National Championship game tonight between The Butler Bulldogs and Uconn Huskies.  I was unable to watch the Final Four games because I had a fraternity thing I had to be at.  I’m also supposed to be playing in an intramural basketball game tonight…yeah right! I picked these two teams to win to set up this match up last week.  I explained why I thought they were going to be successful and I plan to make my prediction for tonight’s soon to be National Champion.

I like both of these teams.  Both teams are in the championship for a reason.  Butler got off to a slow start at the beginning of the season but have really shown up ready to play and have taken care of business every night come tournament time.  Uconn is on one of the most exciting runs I’ve ever heard of.  They have won 10 straight games all coming during the Big East tournament and now the NCAA tournament.  I think tonight’s match up will be a great one to watch.

I’ll start with Uconn.  Uconn, as mentioned above, is on an incredible 10 game winning streak.  I like Kemba Walker and the way he can win games with last second shots.  The only thing that really worries,and not all that much,  me for Uconn is how many games they’ve played in the last couple of weeks.  Yeah they’ve had some time off and time to recuperate but, from what I’ve been told by respected sources Uconn seemed a little tired against Kentucky in the Final Four.  I wasn’t concerned about that earlier in the tournament and here’s why.  They’re a bunch of 18-22 college students! I’m a college student and I played varsity football for 4 years.  I knew how to prepare my body for competition and these athletes have many more resources than I ever could have dreamed of.  Still this is only a minor concern.  With Jim Calhoun’s coaching ability, Walker’s ability to hit big shots, and Jeremy Lamb stepping up I think Uconn will be difficult to beat tonight.

Howard's hustle and playmaking will be much needed in tonight's National Championship game

Surprisingly I like Butler tonight.  There’s something special going on in that Butler locker room.  This team has NCAA tournament experience and the hunger to keep winning.  Not only that, they have one of the most intelligent young coaches in the game today.  Brad Stevens has a very close relationship with his players, I mean for goodness sakes they only have 8 players on the squad!  He knows how to get his guys ready to play and how to keep them composed. You can see that his players want to win just as much for Coach as they do for themselves.  I’ve played for a coach I respected and loved and it’s totally different than playing for a coach you could give to squats over a toilet about.  You play harder, you’re focused, and you hustle much more.  Like I said, there’s something special going on in that locker room.  Let’s not forget to mention Butler making their second straight appearance in the National Championship game. They lost last years championship game by only a few inches! They have that hunger, that passion, and the fuel needed to win a National Championship. I’ve mentioned Butler’s composure and I think they’re late game execution shows that.  Winning close games is in the Bulldogs’ blood. I also think Shelvin Mack will have another big game to help propel Butler to their first National Championship!

Regardless of who wins tonight it should be a very good game.  Both teams are deserving to be where they are and both deserve to be the National Championship.

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In this post I’m going to talk about some of the reasons why I like Butler to advance not only to the Elite 8 but to the Final Four.

I’m not sure if a team can be considered the Cinderella team two years in a row but I like Butler this year as the “Underdog” once again.  This season (including the NCAA tournament games) Butler is only 3-3 against teams that made it into the tournament.  Their losses were against Louisville (Nov. 16th 2010), Duke (Dec. 4th 2010), and Xavier (Dec. 9th 2010) and their wins against Florida State (Dec. 23rd 2010), Old Dominion (March 17th 2011), and Pittsburgh (March 19th 2011).  Some would say this is a weak resume against teams in the tournament, only two of those teams are left in the tournament not including Butler.  I would have to agree with this claim, that’s not very impressive.  However, the Bulldogs are tough and know how to win tough close games.

“This team is tough because Matt Howard is tough” -Butler Guard Ronald Nored (article from espn.com, Matt Howard leads Butler to Sweet 16) link to article:  http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/tournament/2011/columns/story?columnist=oneil_dana&id=6246779

Howard's workhorse mentality and leadership gives Butler the boost they need to win games

I like Butler making its second trip to the Final Four in two years because of the fact they have Matt Howard.  Howard isn’t the most versatile or flashy player in the game but he gets it done with hard work and hustle.  His energy and work ethic motivates his teammates to work hard and to get better.  They respond to his on and off court leadership. He also leads the team in points per game (16.7) and rebounds per game (7.8).  Howard’s hustle is also second to none.  He has one speed, GO (To quote the great Charlie Sheen) and he doesn’t stop til the game is over. You have to admire that from an athlete that is so gifted.  His hustle and toughness though have gotten him to trouble at times.  Last season he was known to get into foul trouble, this year he’s done better and seems to be playing under more control, which is good news for Bulldogs fans.

I also like Butler’s coach Brad Stevens.  Even though he’s a young coach he knows the game exceptionally well and relates to his players on a very personal level.  You can tell his players respect him and want to play for him.  He brings a sense of family to the program which has not only brought him closer to his players but the whole team and faculty closer together.  Another good thing about Stevens’ youth is that he brings a certain energy to the game that most coaches can only attempt to bring.  I also like his composure. His calm and collected attitude mixed with his passion and energy vibes perfectly with his team.

Shelvin Mack needs to continue his hot shooting to help Butler reach the Elite 8

Shelvin Mack, absolutely lit up the the first round.  In order for Butler to be successful the Bulldogs need more big games out of Mack.  Which I think he’ll have.  He was a part of the amazing run Butler had last year and knows what is needed of him to make the same type of run.  I’m not saying he needs to put up another 30 points but he needs to hit big 3’s with the shot clock winding down or hit open looks (I guess you could say that about any shooter).

I like this team a lot. I think their unselfishness on the offensive end will help them get good looks against the Badgers defense.  The Badgers will put up a great fight but Butler wins in a close game.  I also like Butler in the Elite 8, whether they play BYU or Florida. I like the way they match up against both teams and believe they’ll be successful and will see themselves in Houston!


If you ask me this tournament blows.  Honestly I want to watch the best teams from the entire year not just who got hot for a week or maybe even two! However, I’m here to give my thoughts on the upcoming Sweet 16 match-ups. Hope you enjoy!

East Region:

  • Ohio State vs. Kentucky: Ohio State has been the most consistent and dominating team this season.  Winning the regular season Big Ten title and the Big Ten Conference championship.  Although Kentucky has shown some toughness and good play I don’t see much hope for the Wildcats.  As much as I hate to say it, Ohio State will most like dominate the Wildcats and move on to the Elite 8 with another very impressive victory.
  • Marquette vs. North Carolina:  Marquette has been a surprise this tournament (just as every other team left besides a few).  I had Marquette losing 1st round but they’ve proven me wrong not just once but by also beating Syracuse.  Everybody wants to talk about playing close to home…I don’t think that means anything come tournament time. Marquette took down Syracuse in Newark, New Jersey and Purdue got pounded by VCU in Chicago.  And UCN barely escaped Washington in their own back yard, Washington had traveled somewhere close to 2,000 miles compared to UNC only going about 140 miles.  If you watched the UNC/Washington game you’ll agree that UNC didn’t win that game but Washington lost that game.  I’m still not impressed with the TarHeels but think they have just as good of a shot as anybody but, I think Marquette will prevail in this one by playing tough defense and breaking down UNC’s almost non-existent defense at the other end of the floor.  Marquette > UNC in a close game.

West Region:

  • Duke vs. Arizona: Duke escaped Michigan by a two point margin, which nobody expected to happen. Arizona took down Texas on a 3 point play by Derrick Williams in the closing seconds of the game.  Two close games that two good teams won.  But, Duke has been here before in more recent history.  I think Nolan Smith and Kyrie Irving will be able to lock down Arizona’s guard but the opposite will not happen.  Duke needs a hot shooting night from Seth Curry if they don’t want to make it interesting.  I think Derrick Williams will have a big game but Duke wins.  I think Coach K’s squad wants to be the team that ties Bob Knight’s all time wins record for Coach K, just a little extra motivation.
  • Uconn vs San Diego State: I feel bad for anybody who has SDSU going any further than this game.  One of my friends has BYU and SDSU in the final game with SDSU winning it all.  He knows nothing about college basketball but might be on to something.  I don’t usually like to be proven wrong but hey it happens.  However, I think Uconn is just too tough and has better big game experience.  Plus, Uconn has Kemba Walker, whose in the running for Player of the Year (POY).  I don’t see SDSU’s luck making it past the Sweet 16.  Uconn wins by 9.

Southwest Region:

  • Kansas vs. Richmond: I think it’s fair to say that this region is a mess.  I hate it.  I’m not looking forward to watching these games.  I think this game in particular is going to be a blow out.  Kansas wins big, that’s all I have to say.  Actually, the Morris Twins are going to win this game with a bit of help from the guards (getting them the ball that is). Sorry Richmond, your Cinderella story is over.
  • VCU vs. FSU: I don’t want to watch this game. Maybe VCU will prove me wrong but I see them cooling off this round after 4 days off.  I strong feel that out of the 16 teams left that only 6 or 7 belong, and these two teams are not in that category.  Regardless FSU wins with good defensive and and rebounding.

Southeast Region:

  • Butler vs. Wisconsin: For once I’m actually looking forward to watching this game.  I think it’s going to be interesting watching the two different styles play.  I think Bo Ryan and his defense will be able to hold Butler in Check.  But, if Shelvin Mack stays hot he’s going to be hard to stop which could frustrate the Badgers.  But, I think Butler is at it again and pulls off another so called upset and advances to the Sweet 16 for the second straight year in a row on a buzzer beater by Howard!
  • BYU vs. Florida: I think Jimmer stays hot and frustrates Florida’s defense.  I like Florida’s team play and their ability to get open looks.  However, this is the one year where mid-majors have whooped big conferences butts so I’m going BYU in this game.

I’ve basically been wrong with every prediction.  But like I said before they’re only predictions.  So if you want your team to win that I have winning don’t hate me when they get beat.  And if I have your team losing and they win I don’t want to hear any smack talk about how wrong I was.  Like I said I’m not looking forward to watching too many of these games. I think once it’s down to the Final Four, when the best teams left weed out the undeserving competition, it’ll be much more interesting. Until then sit back and have a nice cold one to help you get through this weekends games.  I’ll be posting some more in depth reports later tonight and tomorrow before games resume on Thursday. Keep your eyes open for new posts!

Thanks for reading everyone!


After Butler’s amazing run last season I think everybody had pretty high expectations for the Bulldogs again this season. After a slow start and a couple of tough losses it seems that Butler learned from those mistakes and grew as a team.  After their amazing last second heroics all throughout last years tournament Butler is back at it again.

 

Shelvin Mack's 30 points from 7 three pointers boosted the Bulldogs over the 1 seeded Panthers

Butler looked really good against Pittsburgh Saturday night.  A lot of it is credited to their hot 3 point shooting.  As a team they hit 44.4% from behind the arc.  Shelvin Mack finished with 30 points, 21 of  those coming from behind the 3 point line.  Despite Mack’s amazing performance he almost cost his team a W.

 

After Butler converted a layup to take the lead with about 2 seconds left Pitt had to scramble and try to get off a good shot as time was expiring.  however, Shelvin fouled Gilbert Brown who received the inbound pass.  Brown hit the first free throw.  What happened next was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen in a basketball game, and I thought Mack’s foul to send Gilbert Brown to the free throw line with .9 seconds left would never be topped.  Brown missed the second free throw and Matt Howard got the defensive rebound and was fouled!

Howard's 16 point sealed the deal for the 8 seeded Bulldogs in their upset of 1 seeded Pittsburgh

Howard hit the first free throw to make the score 71-70 and then went on to intentionally miss the second free throw.  Howard finished the game with 16 points and 6 rebounds. Butler upsets the #1 seed Pittsburgh and makes Pitt the 6th Big East team to be eliminated from the tournament.  I didn’t agree with the 11 Big East teams in the tournament and I think all who agree have reason to argue that kind of blasphemy.  Everybody wanted to talk about how tough the Big East was this year but yet they are currently 6-6 in the tournament. And all those who wanted to talk about how weak the Big Ten was needs to reconsider how they evaluate conferences.  The Big Ten is currently 5-2 with only 7 teams making the tournament this year.  I’ll admit that I had Pitt in my Final Four but I’ve never been so happy to be wrong in this situation.

It’s been an interesting tournament so far and I can’t wait for tomorrow’s second wave of games when my two favorite teams take to the court (Kansas and Purdue).  And for all who are wondering teams from Indiana are 5-1.  Indiana is the heart and soul of basketball!


Being an Indiana boy and naturally hating Duke I fell in love with the Butler Bulldogs once my top two favorite teams were knocked out of the big dance (Kansas Jayhawks and Purdue Boilermakers).  I admit that it was just a love affair with the Bulldogs.  I never really invested much into Butler but found myself none the less rooting for them in the national championship game.  It’s no lie that Gordon Hayward was their team leader and helped them to their surprising runner up finish in the 2009-2010 season.  So, it is that much of a surprise to the Bulldog’s rocky start in the 2010-2011 season?

Not at all.  Last years team was same George Mason team that made it to the final four a few years back.  Coming out of the Horizon League I really didn’t know much about Butler and had them losing in the sweet sixteen.  I know my Indiana boys can play some ball but I’m not that confident in my small town schools, yet.  However, I don’t think the Bulldogs are suffering from the hangover from their title run just a season ago.  I think their early season struggles are due more in part to the departure of the sophomore stud Gordon Hayward.  He was the staple and glue of the team last season.

I’m not knocking Butler or giving up on them. I’m simply putting their season into perspective.  Their preseason ranking at #18 in the country I thought was a little ridiculous.  ESPN had to know they were wrong.  They probably just felt obligated to put the runner up in the top 25, the only problem I have with ESPN.  I’m not totally surprised by Butler’s rocky start but I still think the Bulldogs will start playing much better come conference play.

3 of Butler’s 4 losses come to solid teams; Louisville, #1 Duke, and Xavier.  After an impressive victory against Washington State I see a bright future for the Bulldogs.  Do I think they’re going back to replay Duke in the National Championship game? Not at all.  But I think the Bulldogs are making their way back into Horizon League champ form.  Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack need to step up and I think they showed their ability to do so this past weekend in Hawaii in the Diamond Head Classic tournament.  This, to me, is an important step before entering conference play coming up soon this coming week.  Some more good news for the Bulldogs is that Zach Hahn started hitting some big shots in their victory over Washington State Saturday night.

Personally, I don’t see Butler making another Cinderella run.  But, I can see them competing with Valparaiso for the Horizon League Championship.  And with Butler’s rocky start, winning the Horizon League is the only way I see them making the big dance come March.  Butler has a solid team and some very good athletes but, I don’t really consider them to be “back” with the big dogs and don’t really feel like they ever were “with” the big dogs.  I expect big things from the Bulldogs but think it would be completely unrealistic to expect to seem them back in the National Title game…..