Legend says there is a basketball hoop in every driveway in the state of Indiana. Were it only half true, the Hoosier state's talent pool would still almost certainly be deep enough to stock all of its traditional powers plus an ambitious few more.
Some of IU's greatest players -- Kent Benson, Steve Alford and Damon Bailey -- were all weaned in the Hoosier state. Some of the most identifiable Boilermakers -- Glenn Robinson and John Wooden -- are Indiana natives as well.
When the Butler Bulldogs (presumably) pile onto a bus and head south on Meridian Street this weekend for a date with destiny, it might be time to add Brad Stevens and company to the mix. With 10 in-state players on roster, Butler's first-ever trip to the Final Four will have a decidedly local flavor to it.
"It's special for all of us here," star forward and former Brownsburg standout Gordon Hayward told reporters after his team dispatched of Kansas State in the Elite Eight last Saturday. "The fact that we get to play in front of our home crowd, they've just been tremendous all year, supporting us, kind of makes it more special."
And yet, Hayward's very presence on one of the NCAA tournament's four remaining teams probably begs the question: How did such a talented player end up at Butler in the first place?
"Gordon Hayward is a guy where they just kind of unwrapped the package on Christmas morning and it was a lot nicer than they thought it was going to be," Scout.com National Recruiting Director Dave Telep told The Times. "I'm not even sure who they beat to get Gordon Hayward."
That said, Telep was clear: Butler is not a team of also-rans, players just an inch too short or a step too slow for big-time college basketball.
Stevens' program is just aware of itself, of its identity and the kinds of players that fit its mold. The notion that Butler recruits players, in-state and out, that were simply passed over by high-major conference schools isn't fair, he said.
"I don't think, nationally, this team is painted that way," Telep said. "This team is constructed of guys who believe in the value system (at Butler)."
There is evidence to back Telep's claim. According to Rivals, Purdue offered Hayward, now Butler's leading scorer, coming out of Brownsburg in 2008. Connersville product Matt Howard, the Bulldogs' center, had interest from both the Boilermakers and Indiana. He picked Butler, Telep said, because he was "really comfortable with what Butler had to offer."
That's a phrase the college recruiting landscape probably ought to get used to -- "what Butler has to offer." The Bulldogs have become NCAA tournament stalwarts and now boast a coaching tree that includes Thad Matta, Todd Lickliter and Stevens, the youthful, 33-year-old leader whose decision to leave a corporate track at Eli Lilly and join Lickliter's staff is now a well-traveled story in college basketball.
The question, of course, is where does Butler go from here? All of the sudden, the small private college tucked away in north Indianapolis can play with -- and recruit like -- the big boys. Already rumors are swirling about lauded 2011 recruit Cody Zeller deciding Butler would be among his top two.
But that's not quite the Butler way, according to Telep. The Bulldogs will continue to do as they have always done, looking for team-first players who won't ever consider themselves "bigger" than the program.
"They look for guys who value academics. They look for guys who buy into what they're doing," Telep said. "At Butler, it's about winning and being a part of a team and a unit and a program."
Still, a trip to the Final Four never hurts the program's image, something Telep said Butler could soon find out.
"I think that this gives them some brand recognition," he said. "That's going to be very, very useful for them."
Will Butler win the national championship? Vote at nwi.com/sports.
Coach: Brad Stevens
Pos Ht Wt Yr Hometown
1 Shelvin Mack G 6-3 215 So Lexington, Ky.
2 Shawn Vanzant G 6-0 172 Jr Tampa, Fla.
3 Zach Hahn G 6-1 176 Jr New Castle
5 Ronald Nored G 6-0 174 So Homewood, Ala.
11 Alex Anglin G/F 6-5 177 Jr Kokomo
14 Nick Rodgers G 6-2 168 Sr Noblesville
20 Gordon Hayward G/F 6-9 207 So Brownsburg
21 Willie Veasley G/F 6-3 206 Sr Freeport, Ill.
22 Grant Leiendecker G 6-5 182 Jr Fort Wayne
24 Avery Jukes F 6-8 215 Sr Snellville, Ga.
30 Emerson Kampen C 6-9 189 Fr Yorktown
32 Garrett Butcher F 6-7 209 So Ellettsville
33 Chase Stigall G 6-4 195 Fr New Castle
44 Andrew Smith C 6-11 239 Fr Indianapolis
54 Matt Howard F 6-8 230 Jr Connersville
At Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
Michigan State (28-8) vs. Butler (32-4), 5:07 p.m. (CBS)
West Virginia (31-6) vs. Duke (33-5), 40 minutes following (CBS)
Monday, 8:21 p.m. (CBS)
Final Four team capsules
Scoring: Team (72.4); Kalin Lucas 14.8 (injured); Raymar Morgan 11.5; Durrell Summers 11.2; Draymond Green 9.8; Chris Allen 8.5.
Rebounds: Team (38.6); Draymond Green 7.8; Raymar Morgan 6.2; Delvon Roe 5.0; Durrell Summers 4.6.
Assists/Turnovers: Team (16.5/13.8); Kalin Lucas 4.0/2.4 (injured); Korie Lucious 3.3/1.8; Draymond Green 3.1/1.7; Chris Allen 2.1/1.4.
3-pointers: Team (.343); Chris Allen 53; Durrell Summers 42; Kalin Lucas 35 (injured).
The Skinny: The Midwest regional champions are making their sixth Final Four appearance under Izzo, all since 1999. Summers has stepped up in Lucas' abscence, almost doubling his regular-season scoring average in leading the Spartans to a second straight Final Four appearance. Summers, who came in averaging 10.9 points, scored 80 in the four NCAA tournament games, including 21 on 8-of-10 shooting in the regional final win over Tennessee. His best outing of the tournament was 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting in the game when Lucas went down in the first half with the season-ending injury. The Spartans only had to beat one team seeded higher in the Midwest -- No. 4 Maryland on a buzzer-beating 3-point shot by Lucious.
Scoring: Team (69.4); Gordon Hayward 15.5; Shelvin Mack 14.2; Matt Howard 11.8; Willie Veasley 10.1.
Rebounds: Team (32.6); Gordon Hayward 8.2; Matt Howard 5.3; Willie Veasley 4.3.
Assists/Turnovers: Team (12.6/12.2); Ronald Nored 3.7/2.0; Shelvin Mack 3.1/2.1.
3-pointers: Team (.345); Shelvin Mack 68; Zach Hahn 47; Willie Veasley 45; Gordon Hayward 43.
The Skinny: The West regional champions extended the nation's longest current winning streak to 25 games, beating top-seeded Syracuse and then shutting down No. 2-seed Kansas State. The Bulldogs are headed to their first Final Four and will play just five miles from campus. In four NCAA tournament games, nobody has scored 60 points on the Bulldogs yet. Stevens, the 33-year-old coach, is one of the youngest to ever take a team this far. Since the NCAA started keeping thorough records in 1972, only Bob Knight was younger when he brought his Indiana team to the Final Four in 1973. He has more wins than anyone in his first three seasons as a head coach with 88. This will be the first Final Four with two No. 5 seeds in it, and they will meet in the first semifinal game.
Scoring: Team (77.7); Jon Scheyer 18.2; Kyle Singler 17.6; Nolan Smith 17.4.
Rebounds: Team (39.5); Brian Zoubek 7.6; Kyle Singler 6.9; Miles Plumlee 5.1; Lance Thomas 4.9.
Assists/Turnovers: Team (13.9/11.1); Jon Scheyer 4.8/1.7; Nolan Smith 2.9/1.8; Kyle Singler 2.3/1.9.
3-pointers: Team (.385); Jon Scheyer 104; Kyle Singler 79; Nolan Smith 55; Andre Dawkins 36.
The Skinny: The South regional champions are the only No. 1 seed to reach the Final Four and the favorite among the remaining teams. Krzyzewski is taking a team to the Final Four for the 11th time, moving him into a tie with Dean Smith of North Carolina for second place on the all-time list, one behind UCLA's John Wooden. The Blue Devils are back in the national semifinals for the first time since 2004, a six-year drought that was the longest since Krzyzewski made his first Final Four in 1986. Smith scored a career-high 29 points in a 78-71 victory over Baylor in the regional final. Smith's father, Derek, was a sophomore starter on Louisville's national championship team in 1980. He died in 1996 at age 34, apparently of a heart attack. He played nine seasons in the NBA.
Scoring: Team (72.8); Da'Sean Butler 17.4; Kevin Jones 13.7; Devin Ebanks 12.0; Darryl Bryant 9.3 (injured).
Rebounds: Team (38.9); Devin Ebanks 8.2; Kevin Jones 7.2; Da'Sean Butler 6.3; Wellington Smith 4.1.
Assists/Turnovers: Team (15.6/11.9); Da'Sean Butler 3.2/1.8; Darryl Bryant 3.1/2.0 (injured); Devin Ebanks 2.5/2.2; Joe Mazzulla 2.4/1.1.
3-pointers: Team (.336); Da'Sean Butler 70; Kevin Jones 41; Darryl Bryant 40 (injured); Wellington Smith 36.
The Skinny: West Virginia will make its first appearance in the Final Four since 1959. The East regional champions have set a school record with 31 wins. Bryant, who broke his right foot on March 23, missed WVU's last two games. Junior college transfer Casey Mitchell started for Bryant in a regional semifinal win over Washington, but Mazzulla played the most significant minutes in that game and started against Kentucky, scoring a career-high 17 points, making several uncontested layups. Bryant could play as he got fitted for a specially designed shoe, hoping shift weight away from his fractured fifth metatarsal.