Sports and Scores
 
NCAA Basketball
Scoreboard | Standings | Teams | Leaders | Polls | Home

No. 8 Gonzaga, No. 13 Butler ready to square off

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

By MICHAEL MAROT

AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Gonzaga served as the model program for college basketball's non-power conference schools for more than decade.

Butler took that blueprint, revised it and came up with even better results.

On Saturday, college basketball fans will finally get to see America's two biggest little schools play each other at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse with all the trimmings: A prime-time tip and a national audience on ESPN.

"You talk about the Final Four, bucket list. You talk about Maui (Invitational), bucket list, Preseason NIT, bucket list," Butler coach Brad Stevens said. "So when (College) GameDay comes to town, you play when they tell you to play."

The showcase also happens to pit two of America's best teams, No. 8 Gonzaga and No. 13 Butler, and both are on a roll.

Two-time national runner-up Butler (15-2, 3-0 Atlantic 10) has won 12 straight since losing to Illinois in Maui two months ago. It has already upset then-No. 1 Indiana and then-No. 9 North Carolina, as well as three traditional A-10 front-runners in St. Joseph's, Dayton and Richmond. It has beaten teams from the ACC (North Carolina), Big East (Marquette) SEC (Vanderbilt) and two Big Ten schools (Indiana and Northwestern), none of them at Hinkle.

A win this weekend would make this the first Butler team to beat three top 10 teams in one season.

One thing fans won't see is Butler's top scorer, Rotnei Clarke, who will miss his second straight game with a severely sprained neck. It didn't bother them in Wednesday's 62-47 win over Richmond, and the Bulldogs insist they won't do anything different Saturday, either.

"It's just our next game," said 7-foot center Andrew Smith, the only active college player to start in two national championship games. "They're a great team, but we'll play just as hard as we always do."

The Zags, meanwhile, are making a cross-country journey less than 48 hours after playing at Portland.

Gonzaga (17-1, 4-0 West Coast Conference) has won eight straight, is off to the best start in school history and has its own laundry list of big-time wins. The Zags have beaten Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia of the Big 12, Clemson of the ACC and Washington State of the Pac-12. Like Butler, Gonzaga's only loss came to Illinois.

Unlike Butler, the Zags have never reached a Final Four and haven't played in a regional final since 1999.

Maybe that will change in 2013. These Zags are big, strong and deep as Portland found out when 7-foot center Kelly Olynyk, the WCC's top scorer, spent 14 minutes of the first half on the bench because of foul trouble. Gonzaga still won 71-49.

"They have the No. 1 frontcourt in the country," Portland coach Eric Reveno said after the game. "We forced them to go to Plan B, and their Plan B is almost as good as Plan A."

What Butler and Gonzaga have done goes far beyond their campuses.

Both have consistently brought in players who fit their systems rather than Top 100 recruits, and they manage to keep those guys around campus long enough to develop their talent. And they did this while scheduling the big boys of college basketball.

Other non-BCS conference programs took the cue and wound up with similar results.

A glance at this week's Top 25 shows Creighton at No. 12, San Diego State at No. 15, New Mexico at No. 19 and Virginia Commonwealth at No. 22. Another Missouri Valley Conference school, Wichita State, was ranked last week.

George Mason, VCU and Butler have all made Final Four appearances in the past decade. Ohio University of the Mid-American Conference came within a whisker of upsetting North Carolina and going to the regional final last season.

With all these non-traditional teams in the Top 25 now, it could happen again.

And the mantra, from Indianapolis to Spokane, Wash., to Omaha, Neb., sounds the same.

"We'll play anyone anywhere as long as they'll come back to Omaha," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. "Gonzaga isn't playing anyone anywhere without a return trip unless it's on a neutral floor somewhere. That's something we'd be open to do as well. We have got 17,000-plus coming to our games. We've got to play some home games. We owe that to our fans. We'll continue. "

McDermott acknowledges he's reached out to Butler and Gonzaga but has not yet been able to get either on the schedule.

Gonzaga won last year's meeting with Butler 71-55, and Stevens did have some second thoughts about keeping the second straight meeting on the schedule.

"We scheduled this before we were in the Atlantic 10 and when I looked at the schedule in September, I thought, `I'm an idiot,'" Stevens said. "I should have scaled it back."

He didn't, and college basketball fans might get to see one of the best games all season.

"We have unbelievable respect for Gonzaga and it has been that way for a long time," Stevens said. "But we're going to do what we do. We have half a season still ahead and we have to do what we do."

AP Sports Writer Eric Olson in Omaha, Neb., contributed to this report.

Updated January 18, 2013

? © 2014 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

Audio On Demand

CSNNE's Tom E. Curran Rep…

CSNNE's Tom E. Curran Reports From NFL Owners Meetings

Tom Curran calls the show to discuss the Vince Wilfork contract situation. After texting with Vince this morning, Curran says that Vince's camp is possibly trying to put the "genie back in the lamp" and that the possibility of the Pro Bowl DT returning to the team has improved.

Heath Evans, NFL Network: The Impact of Revis and Browner on the Patriots Defense

Heath Evans of the NFL Network joins Mut and Lou to talk how Revis and Browner impact the Patriots defense, the Vince Wilfork Situation, and the arms race between Denver and New England

Former Patriot Ty Law with Dale, Holley and Fauria

We talk Revis with his friend and mentor, former Patriot Ty Law.

Wyc Grousbeck, Celtics Ow…

Wyc Grousbeck, Celtics Owner: Reflects on the Boston Marathon tragedy 4-15-4

Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck joins Mut and Merloni to discuss and reflect on the Boston Marathon Bombings a year later.

Jackie MacMullan, ESPN Boston, on the Celtics, 4-10-14

Jackie MacMullan talks some Celtics with Mut and Merloni as the season is winding down and the team is positioned to have a high draft pick.

Jackie MacMullan, ESPN Boston, discussing Rajon Rondo as a color commentator, the NBA draft, and the epic Pacers-Heat game

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN Boston joins Mut, Lou, and Christian to talk about Rajon Rondo in the booth, the rest of the Celtics losing season, and the epic battle between the Pacers and Heat.

Red Sox Manager John Farr…

Red Sox Manager John Farrell with Dale and Holley

We discuss the Red Sox early season woes with manager John Farrell, as well as his views and faith in MLB's new instant replay system, and the continuity in the Sox outfield.

Joe and Dave Postgame with Grady Sizemore 04-11-14

Dave O'Brien and Joe Castiglione talk with Red Sox starting left fielder, Grady Sizemore. grady talks about what it was like to hit a home run off his old teammate, C.C. Sabathia, and his reaction to not seeing Koji on the mound in a save situation.

Dale and Holley: Steve Lyons 4-11-14

Steve Lyons joins Dale and Holley to talk about the Red Sox and Yankees series and Michael Pineda's sticky hand.

Pod Man Rush: DJ Bean and…

Pod Man Rush: DJ Bean and Greg Wyshynski on Bruins-Red Wings

Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports joins DJ to break down the first-round matchup between the Bruins and Red Wings. Also discussed is Zdeno Chara's Norris candidacy, transparency with voting for the NHL awards and whether the Canadiens will get out of the first round.

Shawn Thornton on the Red Wings 4-15-14

Shawn Thornton joined the show to preview the upcoming series against the Red Wings.

Pierre McGuire, NBC Sports, brings us around the NHL 4-11-14

2 games left in the season and the Bruins are in the driver's seat for the President's Cup which is allowing them to coast and get healthy. Pierre McGuire updates Mut and Lou on the possibility of Seidenberg's return and talks about situations elsewhere in the NHL.

Crystel the Tsnarnaev def…

Crystel the Tsnarnaev defender 4=16=14

Crystel called in to defend the terrorists.

Michele McPhee on the nutjob at the finish line

Our friend Michele McPhee joined the show to discuss the latest with Kayvon.

Headlines, Headlines, Headlines: Chelsea Handler

The top stories of the day as recounted by Kirk Minihane.

Buster Olney, ESPN: Sox c…

Buster Olney, ESPN: Sox clubhouse unhappy with Lester offer, 4-16-14

Buster Olney joined Mut and Merloni to discuss the Lester contract offer and the trickle-down effect in the clubhouse, the defense of Xander Bogaerts, and the slow start

Andy Brickley, NESN: Boston's depth is too much for Detroit, 4-16-14

Andy Brickley joins Mut and Merloni to discuss the Bruins Red Wings series, a possible Seidenberg return, and the power play.

Wyc Grousbeck, Celtics Owner: Reflects on the Boston Marathon tragedy 4-15-4

Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck joins Mut and Merloni to discuss and reflect on the Boston Marathon Bombings a year later.

John Farrell joins Dale a…

John Farrell joins Dale and Holley

We discuss the Red Sox early season woes with manager John Farrell, as well as his views and faith in MLB's new instant replay system, and the continuity in the Sox outfield.

Red Sox batting order and outfield continues to lack continuity

We discuss the Red Sox after our interview with John Farrell, and Dustin Pedroia in the lead-off position has become a hot topic.

Should Bruins fans be wary of the Red Wings? And why?

We discuss the Bruins first round matchup vs the Red Wings, and why many national folks think this series could be the one to watch for an early round upset.

Rick Middleton joins Plan…

Rick Middleton joins Planet Mikey

Nifty jumps on the Planet for an hour.

Red Sox lose to the Orioles 2-1 on Opening Day

Lou Merloni did play-by-play with Joe Castiglione today and then joined The Planet Mikey Show to talk about what went wrong, and a few things that went right as the Red Sox started their campaign to defend their World Series title.

Chris Price joins John Ryder to talk the Patriots' newest acquisition

WEEI.com's Chris Price joins John Ryder and Chris Villani on Planet Mikey to discuss the signing of Revis Island

Pod Man Rush: DJ Bean and…

Pod Man Rush: DJ Bean and Greg Wyshynski on Bruins-Red Wings

Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports joins DJ to break down the first-round matchup between the Bruins and Red Wings. Also discussed is Zdeno Chara's Norris candidacy, transparency with voting for the NHL awards and whether the Canadiens will get out of the first round.

Minor Details Ep. 79: The meaning of winning in the minors with Carlos Febles, Evan Lepler

The Red Sox' High-A minor league team in Salem recently had a 16-game winning streak that spanned two seasons. So what? From the standpoint of making prospects better and fostering player development, does that matter? Salem manager Carlos Febles (who managed Salem for the end of their winning streak, but who was also in charge of a 50-87 Single-A Greenville team in 2013) and Salem radio play-by-play man Evan Lepler discuss -- while also touching on a number of prospects in search of the next Earl Weaver and Vinegar Bend Mizell.

WEEI WrestleCast: Wrestlemania 30 recap

Scott and Ben recap WrestleMania 30 and talk about the death of the Ultimate Warrior.

Boston Strong one year la…

Boston Strong one year later 4-15-14

Our montage to honor all those impacted by the terrorist attacks one year ago.

More from this show

Crystel the Tsnarnaev def…

Crystel the Tsnarnaev defender 4=16=14

Crystel called in to defend the terrorists.

More from this show

Headlines Headlines Headl…

Headlines Headlines Headlines: Aaron Hernandez in more trouble 4-15-14

The top stories of the day as recounted by Kirk Minihane. Today the guys discussed Aaron Hernandez getting in more jailhouse trouble.

More from this show

Brad Faxon gives his take…

Brad Faxon gives his take on Bubba Watson capturing his second Green Jacket 4-14-14

Friend of the show, Brad Faxon, checks in to examine all the Masters action and to evaluate Bubba Watson's performance.

More from this show

Shawn Thornton on the Red…

Shawn Thornton on the Red Wings 4-15-14

Shawn Thornton joined the show to preview the Red Wings series and the one year anniversary of the Marathon Bombings.

More from this show

Weei Writers