Today is a slow day for the No. 8-seeded Butler men’s basketball team. Some were pretending to be members of the media, while others were ready to go back to bed.
Senior guard Shawn Vanzant took a short, mostly unnoticed nap at an afternoon press conference, and senior forward Matt Howard was walking around the arena in the clothes he very well may have slept in.
The players appear to be somewhat sleep-deprived, a revealing quality reminding all that the team is a bunch of “tweens” who have homework to do when they’re not on the basketball court.
But while the Bulldog starters were being interviewed, the usual Butler substitutes were in their locker room entertaining themselves.
Freshman forward Khyle Marshall was laughing with some Indianapolis media members, and other players were conducting interviews of their own teammates.
Junior forward Garrett Butcher and senior guard Grant Leiendecker took it upon themselves to make freshman forward Erik Fromm feel included in the media day activities, using smart phones and cameras to record Fromm’s insight on trivial things.
“My red hair gets even more fiery in the summer,” Fromm said. “And I’ve thought about growing a beard and becoming a lumberjack, if [head coach Brad Stevens] would let me.”
Stevens was perhaps the most focused of all Bulldogs, discussing everything from how recent success has changed recruiting to the status of sophomore center Andrew Smith’s left ankle, which was sprained last night against No. 4 seed Wisconsin.
“Smith will likely not practice today,” Stevens said. “We’ll test him in shoot around tomorrow morning, and he should be ready to go tomorrow.”
Stevens also said awareness has certainly increased on the recruiting trail but that he and the staff are also not going to pretend to be something they’re not.
“We’re very aware of who we are, and we’re focused on recruiting guys that are passionate about come to Butler, want to represent themselves and their team well and ultimately want to be a great student,” he said.
Howard, despite having “bed head” earlier, combed his hair and was his usual academic self at the afternoon press conference.
“Execution plays a part in it, but being prepared and ready to play definitely helps,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve ever played Florida, and [coaching] is really critical at this time of year when you don’t know teams that well.”
Junior guard Shelvin Mack said that rebounding will be a key to the Elite 8 matchup.
“[Rebounding] will be our main goal tomorrow against Florida, as it’s been the whole tournament,” he said.”
Both teams share a high amount of experience in NCAA tournament play, so wide eyes and speechlessness shouldn’t affect the final result.
Florida returned five starters from last season, which include three current seniors and quick junior guard Erving Walker.
Senior forward Chandler Parsons scored 16 points, grabbed nine rebounds and dished out seven assists in Florida’s Sweet 16 game against No. 3 Brigham Young last night.
He was more than supported by senior forward Alex Tyus, who seized a career-high 17 rebounds and scored 19 points, one shy of his career high in scoring.
Butler starts two seniors, Howard and guard Shawn Vanzant, alongside the only other upperclassman in Mack, but Butler also has junior guard Ronald Nored, the starting point guard last season, and senior 3-point shooting specialist Zach Hahn.
Still, Stevens quelled the idea that experience determines the outcome of games.
“Experience plays a role, but it doesn’t play the same role as preparation or executing does during those 40 minutes,” he said.
The game, which will determine the winner of the Southeast Region, tips at 4:30 p.m. Eastern.