|Despite lack of name recognition, Butler no second-class citizen in NCAA tournament|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 21 March 2008 23:41|
The Louisville coach was a believer long before the 11th-ranked Bulldogs went through South Alabama 81-61 Friday in the first round of the East Regional.
``Butler is a major powerhouse in the game of college basketball,'' said Pitino, whose Cardinals were beaten by Butler in 2003. ``I get insulted myself - and I don't work for the school - when they're called a mid-major.
``They're a major, major big-time college basketball team.''
No. 5 Tennessee advanced into the second round with a late-blooming 72-57 win over American and were rewarded with a game against Butler with a spot in the regional semifinals on the line. Sunday's other East Regional matchup in Birmingham features No. 13 Louisville against Oklahoma after the Cardinals knocked off Boise State 79-61 and the Sooners rolled past Saint Joseph's 72-64.
Butler set a school record with its 30th win, but has been hearing questions about its worthiness all week.
First, the NCAA tournament selection committee slapped the Bulldogs with a seventh seed. Then they had to listen to the college basketball pundits nattering on all week about the worthiness of all the mid-major teams in the bracket.
South Alabama coach Ronnie Arrow dismissed all that chatter after Butler hit 15 3-pointers to sting the Jaguars in a game that was over at halftime.
``Whenever you run up against somebody who hits 3s like that, they're going to beat some people,'' Arrow said. ``If they can hit like that against Tennessee, they have a great shot of beating them.''
Pete Campbell hit 8 of 10 3-point shots, hitting a handful from 25 feet. The Jaguars (26-7) played the Bulldogs close for a while, but Campbell beat the halftime buzzer with his sixth 3 to make it 47-30 and South Alabama never threatened again.
Like most seasoned teams, Butler displayed little emotion after the win. It was just another day, one the Bulldogs have been preparing for all season.
``We schedule stuff like this,'' said guard A.J. Graves, who scored 18. ``We went up to Alaska and played on neutral courts, we played in Conseco, Indianapolis on neutral courts. So I think this is just some experience that's come along with us. But you still got to go out there and play. There's going to be tough teams that come out and want to challenge you and you just got to try and do your best.''
Tennessee 72, American 57, East Region
JaJuan Smith finished with 19 points, Wayne Chism added 16 and Tennessee woke up just in time to avoid a big upset in the first round.
Ahead 53-51 with 5:45 left, Tennessee (30-4) escaped from a team making its NCAA tournament debut. The Vols held the 15th-seeded Eagles to only one basket the rest of the way.
Garrison Carr, the MVP of the Patriot League tournament, scored 24 points for American (21-12), even though the Vols threw five different defenders at him to no avail.
The Volunteers survived to play seventh-seeded Butler on Sunday.
The Vols felt slighted coming in, believing they deserved more recognition. Smith wrote ``No. 1 seed'' on his orange-and-white sneakers, but coach Bruce Pearl and Tennessee cost themselves with a sluggish showing in the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Oklahoma 72, Saint Joseph's 64, East Region
David Godbold scored a career-high 25 points, including the Sooners' first 11 of the second half, and they survived a late rally to beat Saint Joseph's.
Godbold and the Sooners (23-11), who had a 25-year postseason streak end last season, built a 19-point lead and watched it shrink against a Hawks team eager to prove it belonged.
Ahmad Nivins' putback for the Hawks made it 65-61 with 3:31 to play, then Oklahoma's Blake Griffin scored back-to-back baskets inside to double the lead with about 2 minutes left.
The Hawks (21-13) managed just free throws after that.
Longar Longar had 14 points for the Sooners, who shot 57 percent. Griffin finished with 12.
Rob Ferguson helped keep Saint Joseph's in the game with 21 points.
Louisville 79, Boise State 61, East Region
Earl Clark scored 15 points and Juan Palacios had 13 as Louisville cruised to the victory.
The third-seeded Cardinals rushed to a 10-1 lead and Derrick Caracter's slam made it 42-26 late in the first half.
Leading scorer David Padgett didn't even take a shot before the break and Louisville still breezed, helped by a dozen 3-pointers.
Coming off a disappointing one-and-done performance in the Big East tournament, the Cardinals (25-8) punctuated the rout with several late jams. They play Sunday against Oklahoma.
Matt Nelson scored 17 for Boise State (25-9).
AP National Writer Ben Walker and AP Sports Writer John Zenor contributed to this report.