SALT LAKE CITY—The days of being underdogs are over. Top dogs is more like it.
Stuck with the mid-major tag for over a decade, Butler has advanced to the top of college basketball in two weeks that have defined a program, and brought this small Indianapolis school into the national spotlight.
Gordon Hayward scored 22 points while Shelvin Mack scored 16 to help the Bulldogs improve to 32-4 on the season.
Getting back home to for the biggest weekend in their athletic history went through the top two teams in the West Region, and their Elite Eight victory looked similar to their upset on Thursday.
Like the Syracuse game two days before, Butler was quick out of the gates in their Elite Eight matchup with Kansas State. Entering the game after Matt Howard collected two early fouls, freshman Andrew Smith put in a bucket to give the Bulldogs a 15-8 lead midway through the first half. Shelvin Mack used two free throws to push the lead to 11 late in the half, but two quick buckets helped pull Kansas State to within seven at the break.
Butler again raced out to a lead at the beginning in the final 20 minutes, and Mack's three-pointer with 7:53 remaining gave the Bulldogs a 49-39 lead. That's when Kansas State, who was sluggish for most of the game, finally got going as they raced out to a 13-2 run to grab their first lead of the game when Denis Clemente hit a three pointer to make it 52-51.
Both teams traded the lead for the next two minutes before baskets by Hayward and Ronald Nored pushed the lead to four with 2:05 remaining in the game. A minute later, Hayward put the game on ice with another layup, which followed by a few key defensive stops punched Butler's ticket to the Final Four.