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Purdue, Butler reach NCAA Tourney

Sunday, March 15, 2009

By STEVE HERMAN

AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- Seedings don't mean much to Butler's young Bulldogs.

With four freshmen and one sophomore in the starting lineup, Butler was ranked in the Top 25 most of the season. But a loss to Cleveland State in the Horizon League tournament championship game last week dropped them to the No. 9 seed as an at-large pick in the NCAA South Regional, where they'll open on Thursday against LSU.

"Whenever you're in it, you have a chance, and that's the bottom line," Butler's second-year coach Brad Stevens said after the NCAA announced the 65-team field Sunday night. "I don't get too caught up in seeding, I don't get too caught up in anything else. We're just thrilled to be a part of the world's greatest sporting event."

Butler has won the first game in each of its past four NCAA appearances, including last year's 81-61 win over South Alabama in Stevens' NCAA debut. The Bulldogs lost to Tennessee in overtime in their second game last year, and this year's first-round opponent is another team from the Southeastern Conference and another big challenge.

"Obviously, our draw is incredibly tough. We're playing the SEC champs right out of the gate," Stevens said. "They've got some real firepower. They do a great job of just figuring out ways to win, with a couple of really, really good players."

Butler (26-5) and LSU (26-7) will play their first-round game in Greensboro, N.C.

The only other Indiana team in the men's tournament is Purdue, whose strong play in the Big Ten tourney and a 65-61 win over Ohio State for the championship earned the Boilermakers an automatic bid to the NCAA. The Boilermakers (25-9) were seeded fifth and will open on Thursday against Northern Iowa (23-10) in the West Regional at Portland, Ore.

"We feel good about just being in the tournament," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "I think there's a lot of good basketball teams that are not in the NCAA Tournament. And in terms of seeds and where things fall, you really can't control all of that."

It's the third straight NCAA appearance for Purdue under coach Matt Painter, although the Boilermakers have not made it past the second round since 2000. Last year, they beat Baylor 90-79 in the first round before losing 85-78 to Xavier.

Painter, a former coach at Southern Illinois, said he's familiar with Northern Iowa as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference.

"We're going to have a tough time with our first-round game and they're very gritty, very tough," he said. "They have size. They have athleticism, and so that's going to be a tough game for us."

Besides the Purdue men, the Ball State and Evansville women's teams also earned automatic bids Sunday by winning the Mid-American and Missouri Valley tournaments, respectively. The women's pairings will be announced Monday night.


AP Sports Writer Cliff Brunt in Indianapolis contributed to this report.

NCAA-Indiana Capsules

By The Associated Press

Purdue

West Lafayette, Ind., 25-9.

Nickname: Boliermakers.

Coach: Matt Painter.

Region: West.

Seed: No. 5.

Bid: Big Ten champion.

Tournament Record: 29-22, 22 years.

Last NCAA Appearance: 2008.

Conference: Big Ten.

Top Scorers: E'Twaun Moore 13.8; JaJuan Johnson 13.1; Robbie Hummel 12.8.

Top Rebounders: Robbie Hummel 6.8; JaJuan Johnson 5.7; E'Twaun Moore 4.8.

Top Assists: Lewis Jackson 3.4; E'Twaun Moore 3.1; Chris Kramer 2.5.

3-point threats: Keaton Grant 54; Robbie Hummel 54; E'Twaun Moore 48.

Last Ten: 7-3.


Butler

Indianapolis, 26-5.

Nickname: Bulldogs.

Coach: Brad Stevens.

Region: South.

Seed: No. 9.

Bid: At large.

Tournament Record: 8-8, 8 years.

Last NCAA Appearance: 2008.

Conference: Horizon League.

Top Scorers: Matt Howard 14.6; Gordan Hayward 13.2; Shelvin Mack 11.7.

Top Rebounders: Matt Howard 6.7; Gordan Hayward 6.5; Willie Veasley 4.3; Shelvin Mack 4.3.

Top Assists: Shelvin Mack 3.5; Ronald Nored 2.6.

3-point threats: Gordon Hayward 65; Shelvin Mack 54; Zach Hahn 43; Willie Veasley 33.

Last Ten: 7-3.



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