Butler puts W.Va. in top seed territory
Da’Sean Butler was never supposed to become this guy.
The one that has surpassed Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds as Mr. Big Shot in the Big East and the one that may have won conference Player of the Year if the voting had been calculated following the league tournament.
Butler’s shot in the lane with 4.2 seconds left provided the latest heroics and also his second game-winner in the past three days and his sixth of the season.
Yes, that’s correct.
Sixth of the season.
The first of the Big East tourney came on a three-pointer that gave the Mountaineers a win against Cincinnati in the second round. Saturday night’s allowed West Virginia to win the Big East tournament title, enjoy a lively post-game celebration and become a serious player for a No. 1 seed.
West Virginia’s own Bob Huggins, who was born in Morgantown and played three years at the school, ran down the merits of why his team deserves a No. 1 seed.
The 18 wins over top 100 teams, nine of them coming against the top 50.
A strength of schedule that could rise all the way to No. 1 and an RPI that will likely finish in the top three.
"They say to do those things, and we’ve done those things,” Huggins said.
"We play in the best league in America,” he said. "I don’t know how we’re not a No. 1.”
What Huggins has done since arriving three years ago is remarkable.
Here’s a guy who was forced out of coaching less than five years ago. After a year’s hiatus, Huggins was hired at Kansas State and spent one season in Manhattan before his alma mater came calling when John Beilein abruptly left for Michigan.
"This means a lot to the state,” Huggins said.
And it means just as much to Huggins — even though he rarely shows it.
"You could see it on his face when he was interviewed on TV after the game,” said former West Virginia star Joe Alexander, now with the Chicago Bulls. "He has a lot of pride in the school. It means a lot to him.
"People don’t realize that there were still a lot of people in West Virginia that were skeptical whether he could get it done.”
Huggins took over a team with Beilein’s guys, a group that was taught nearly the completely opposite way from what the new coach preached.
Beilein was a think-first guy.
Huggins wanted his guys to react and play off their instincts.
"Not a lot of guys are able to play for both styles,” Alexander said. "But Da’Sean is so versatile.”
But no one could have predicted that Butler, who was passed over by virtually every Big East school, would have become one of the top players in the nation.
"No way,” said forward Cam Thoroughman, who came in the same class as Butler in 2006. "But he’s gotten better every year, and now it’s his job to deliver.”
"No chance,” agreed Joe Mazzulla, another one from that same recruiting class.
Huggins said Butler has fought him until this season.
"He didn’t want to be the guy,” said Huggins, who put him in a class with former Cincinnati Bearcat Nick Van Exel as a big-shot maker.
There was the time when he had 38 points in an exhibition game and apologized for taking too many shots.
But now he’s no longer afraid.
In fact, he yearns for the opportunity with the game on the line.
"Everyone knew he was going to shoot it,” Huggins said. "And usually it goes in.”
"I was shooting that ball,” Butler said of taking the final shot with the Big East title on the line.
West Virginia has a 27-6 record to go with a 13-5 Big East regular-season mark and a conference tournament crown.
Huggins said the Mountaineers deserve a No. 1 seed, but it doesn’t matter in the end.
"Whatever we get, we still have to play,” he said.
"We don’t care,” Mazzulla said. "Huggs just tells us to play the cards we’re dealt.”
Now, the Mountaineers finally have an ace to deal.