The dream matchup became a reality for Siena on Monday.
The Saints drew nationally ranked Butler as their opponent for a Saturday, Feb. 20, game as part of the ESPNU BracketBusters weekend.
Siena (19-4) and Butler, No. 23 (The Associated Press) and No. 15 (ESPN/USA Today), will play at 11 a.m. at the famed Hinkle Fieldhouse, where the final scene from the movie “Hoosiers” was filmed. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
The Bulldogs are 18-4, have won 10 straight, are 8-0 at home and are chasing their fourth straight Horizon League regular-season championship.
The game represents a chance for Siena to get an important non-conference victory, which has bolstered the Saints’ position in the NCAA tournament the last two seasons. Siena beat Boise State two years ago and Northern Iowa last year in BracketBusters games.
“The first thing the BracketBusters did for us was improve our seeding, which gave us a winnable game in the first round of the tournament,” Siena head coach Fran McCaffery said.
This season, Butler has non-conference victories over Davidson, Northwestern, UCLA, Ohio State and Xavier.
The Bulldogs have lost to Minnesota, Clemson, Georgetown and UAB.
“I haven’t seen much of them on film, and I’ve only watched little bits and pieces of them on TV,” McCaffery said. “The thing that really impresses me about them is how unselfish they are. They’ve got a lot of guys who can score, they shoot it, they drive it, they post it, but the most important thing is they understand how to win, and they’ve beaten good teams.”
“That’s like how we play. The styles are different, but the two teams are similar in that they put a premium on winning instead of individual achievement.”
McCaffery is familiar with Hinkle Fieldhouse, having coached there as an assistant at Notre Dame.
“It’s one of the classic buildings, like the Palestra, Cameron, Hinkle, that is known for that kind of tradition and quality of play,” he said.
Siena, riding the longest winning streak in the nation at 13 games, has Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference games against Iona, Fairfield, Niagara and Canisius before taking on Butler.
The Saints garnered 19 points among other teams receiving votes in the AP poll, and eight points in the ESPN/USA Today poll.
McCaffery said he voted for Butler to be in the top 15 this week.
“I think that everybody looks at Butler as the premier team in the BracketBusters’ field,” he said.
Of the 49 BracketBusters games, which feature teams from mid-majors and smaller conferences looking to boost their RPI, 11 will be televised live.
Siena’s RPI has fallen to 43 on www.RealtimeRPI.com and 41 on the NCAA RPI projection, despite the winning streak.
“We’ll find out more about them as we get into the coming weeks, but from afar, I know they’re an older group that has been to the NCAA tournament, they have one of the best coaches in the country in Fran McCaffery, and they’ve got guys like [Alex] Franklin, [Edwin] Ubiles, [Ryan] Rossiter, [Ronald] Moore who have all been there and all can play,” Butler head coach Brad Stevens said during an interview with ESPNU’s Lowell Galindo.
Rossiter is tied for 14th in the country in per-game rebounding average (10.4) and is fourth (.612) in field-goal percentage, Franklin is tied for 12th (.578) in field-goal percentage, and Moore is leading the country in per-game assists average at 8.3, well ahead of Kentucky freshman John Wall (6.8).
Butler’s top scorer and rebounder is Gordon Hayward (16.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg), and Shelvin Mack is averaging 15.0 points per game.
Hayward and Matt Howard were named to the Horizon League all-conference first team last year.
The Bulldogs lost to LSU, 75-71, in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Butler reached the Sweet 16 in 2007 before losing to eventual national champion Florida.
Categories: College Sports