March Madness in the Wild WestBy
Salt Lake City, Utah – I visited all the landmarks in Salt Lake City: the Great Salt Lake, the 2002 Winter Olympics Cauldron Park, the Utah state capital, the Mormon church headquarters and the Rose Park Coin Laundry. With clean underwear, I am now ready to switch my reporting duties from the Purdue Boilermakers to the Butler Bulldogs.
But first a few closing thoughts on the Boilermakers, who I covered in Spokane, Washington, last week. Purdue advancing to the Sweet 16 is a huge accomplishment for a team that most experts (and maybe even some fans) had written off after Robbie Hummel’s injury. Chris Kramer’s toughness and determination has spread throughout the whole team.
The Boilermakers have proven many people wrong, including me. I thought this was a Final Four team with Hummel. I thought they would win one tourney game without him. I can’t see the Boilers beating Duke. But maybe that’s just the kind of motivation Purdue needs to hear. Hummel will join the team in Houston, giving Purdue another emotional boost.
Going from Spokane to Salt Lake City made more sense than coming home and leaving the next day, and saved Channel 13 a few dollars. So that’s why I’m with the Bulldogs now. Butler is in my Final Four. But I realize I’m going with a big underdog. Syracuse is a very good number one seed. The Orange won their first two games in the NCAA tourney by more than 20 points each.
Butler will have to play its best game of the season. Birthday boy Gordon Hayward, who turned 20 Tuesday, will have to perform the way every Bulldog fan knows he can. We have not seen that game from him for awhile. Butler has never advanced to the Elite 8. I think this is Butler’s best team and now is the time. Brad Stevens will be a hot coaching commodity at the Final Four. I hope he’s still coaching Butler that weekend.
Syracuse has often been a team ripe for an upset in the NCAA tourney. If Northern Iowa can beat Kansas, I believe Butler can beat Syracuse.
-Rich Nye, WTHR Sports Reporter
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