Much like their approaching match up, the Butler and Wisconsin men’s basketball teams were similar in practice today. Although Butler was more vocal on the court, both teams used the 50-minute practice period in the New Orleans Arena to run through passing and shooting drills.
Neither team gave insight into any preparations or strategies that would come in handy during tomorrow’s Sweet 16 game.
Butler may have used an earlier practice time to rehearse any confidential plans. They held a practice at nearby Loyola University of New Orleans during the hour prior to their 1 p.m. local time practice at the NCAA game site.
But what the Bulldogs did not keep secret was their ability to enjoy each other’s company.
Junior guard Shelvin Mack, when asked about previously calling senior forward Matt Howard “the weirdest guy he knows,” backtracked a bit and displayed some of the Butler camaraderie.
“I wouldn’t say he’s weird—just unique,” Mack said while laughing. “His brain just operates different than normal individuals.”
Mack went on to call Howard a great teammate and compared him to a brother.
“He’s the big brother that always is doing things, like putting your keys in the shower when you’re looking for them and ready to leave the locker room.”
More lighthearted banter ensued when some of the Butler players were asked whether they respected their coach due to his youthful look.
“Anyone who has the high basketball knowledge that [Brad Stevens] has you’re going to respect if you want to be good,” Mack said. “To be good you’ve got to study good, and Stevens did a great job of that throughout his years before he got to the stage he’s at now.”
Senior guard Shawn Vanzant supported Mack’s thought, saying Stevens earned his respect “right off the bat” for the ability to break down the game so well.
And as always, terms like “Cinderella Story” and “underdawgs” were thrown around the arena.
“I’d say we always feel like we’re the underdawgs in every situation,” Mack said. “But I feel like every team in NCAA tournament might feel like that, unless they’re No. 1 overall seed Ohio State.
“Every time we get out on the court, we know we’ve got to get out there and play our best.”
But the sense this year is also that Butler is an established “giant killer,” or a team annually underrated with the capability to advance deep into the tournament.
“I think there’s something to [us having a target on our backs],” Howard said. “When you have success, people naturally want to take that from you.