Butler is looking to win. Marquette is looking for revenge.
Tomorrow’s third round match-up boasts a rematch of the two from the Maui Invitational back in November of this season.
Butler beat Marquette on a buzzer-beating, desperation heave from senior guard Rotnei Clarke. And Marquette hasn’t forgot about it.
Marquette guard Vander Blue said that is the lasting memory of the Maui invitational for him and most of the team.
“That shot was amazing,” Marquette guard Junior Cadougan said. “It’s motivation, period.”
It hasn’t helped that ESPN created a commercial using the shot.
“I would say it’s fresh in their minds,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. “They’ve seen the commercial countless times on ESPN.”
But Butler has moved on.
“You know, there’s a lot of attention put on it during the tournament,” senior guard Rotnei Clarke said. “But since then, we’ve moved past it.
“It’s definitely not going to have any impact on the game tomorrow.”
The one thing the two teams can agree on is both teams have improved since November.
“They’ve obviously really improved in a lot of areas.” Clarke said. “They’ve had some guys like Wilson who has really stepped up their game since Maui and they’re really clicking on all cylinders right now.”
Marquette finished its season with a 23-8 record and its first-ever Big East Conference regular season championship.
Nearly half of the Golden Eagles’ games came against teams that were selected for the NCAA Tournament or NIT. They were 6-7 against NCAA Tournament teams.
Marquette defeated Davidson 59-58 last night on a last-second shot in the second round of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The Golden Eagles had three players in double-figures, led by the last shot hero, Vander Blue with 16 points.
It was the same play, by the same guy that led Marquette to a last-second victory over St. John’s in its regular season finale.
Clarke described Marquette as “big, physical, fast and athletic.”
“They do a great job rebounding and get of lot of points in the paint too,” Clarke said.
Some of those words Marquette players would use to describe Butler as well.
Both teams hold a positive rebounding margin, with Butler on average out-rebounding opponents by 7.6 per game and Marquette 4.3.
And physicality has become a synonym for senior center Andrew Smith and his entourage down low.
“I remember that Smith was a real physical player,” center Chris Otule said. “All their bigs are really physical and we have to focus on trying to defend without fouling.”
Smith has played against some of the best centers in the country this season including Indiana’s Cody Zeller, Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk and Bucknell’s Mike Muscala.
Last night he, along with the other Butler big men held Muscala, who averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds this season, to only nine points, a career-tying low and 10 rebounds.
Not only has Marquette improved, but so have the Bulldogs as they traditionally have during the post season.
“Brad Stevens is not 12-4 in the NCAA Tournament because he coaches the same team in March that he coaches in November,” Williams said.
The game could be the start of a long, or short with as many conference changes happening, rivalry for these two teams. Both will be in the Big East next season.
But as always, Butler coach Brad Stevens is focused not on next year and not on “a shot that should have never gone in,” but on what he can control; the next play, the next game.
“There is a lot that goes into being able to move on to the next play,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said. “(We) manage the good, manage the bad and understand that as long as you have season left, you can always take advantage of what’s next.”
Game time is set for 7:45 p.m. at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. It will be shown on CBS and can also be watched online on March Madness live.