Butler grad calling first title game for Bulldogs
When Brandon Gaudin was hired as Butler's radio play-by-play announcer just months after last year's improbable run to the national championship game, everyone joked that he missed his shot to call a Final Four for the Bulldogs.
''This is a dream come true for me,'' the 27-year-old Butler graduate said before the Bulldog's 53-41 loss to Connecticut on Monday night. ''To just get the job at the school was always a dream for me and now to be on the grandest stage, calling the best game in college basketball, it's almost surreal.''
Gaudin won a broadcasting contest in 2005 that included a live appearance on the CBS telecast with Greg Gumbel during the national championship game. Since then, he's spent several years in different jobs before landing his coveted gig with Butler.
''It's been a big whirlwind,'' he said. ''I think about that contest a lot because that for me was the first big time experience that I've had as a broadcaster. To be on that set of CBS, meeting Greg Gumbel and having him interview me and selecting my clip as the winner from all those thousands of people seemed surreal at the time.''
Gaudin has dreamed of becoming the voice of the Bulldogs since he was in high school. While in school at Butler, he did anything he could to become involved in the broadcasting department and get to know the men who called the games.
''I would do any menial task that I could just to be a part of it and listen in,'' he said. ''When I graduated I always thought how cool it could be if I could sit in this chair.''
He spent time in New York after graduation and found that many people he met had never heard of Butler. The Bulldogs' recent success has changed that.
''Everyone would always ask what Butler was,'' Gaudin recalled. ''Was it Division II, was it Division III? Do they even have athletics?''
FINAL FOUR TEAM: Connecticut's Kemba Walker was the most outstanding player of the Final Four. He was joined on the Final Four All-Tournament team by teammate Jeremy Lamb.
Butler placed Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack on the list, while the only player to make the team who didn't reach the final was Virginia Commonwealth's Jamie Skeen.
CALHOUN WAITING: UConn coach Jim Calhoun said before Monday's game that, win or lose, he didn't want to make any quick decisions about whether to keep coaching.
Even after winning his third national title, the idea of going out on top will still have to wait.
''Simply, it's going to be what I feel passionately, can I give the kids everything humanly possible that I can?'' the 68-year-old coach said. ''If I can, I'll coach as long as I can keep on doing it. If I decide that I don't, then I'll move on to something because I do have an incredible life with my family and friends and other things that I do.''
CAREFUL KEMBA: UConn star Kemba Walker took a moment to admire the Bob Cousy Award he earned as the nation's top point guard on Monday morning, but forgive him if he didn't pick it up.
There was no chance coach Jim Calhoun was going to risk his team's unquestioned leader pulling a Ty Lawson. The former North Carolina point guard won the same award two years ago but tweaked his back when he lifted the hefty trophy to pose for pictures. The incident forced Lawson to undergo treatment in the hours leading up to Tar Heels' showdown with Michigan State.
Besides, the trophy itself isn't as important to Walker as having his name associated with Cousy. Walker arrived on campus three seasons ago as a raw talent without a consistent jump shot or much experience running an offense. Now he's the best point guard in the country.
''It was hard for me to learn this position when I first got to school,'' said Walker, who averaged 23.7 points this season. ''But as I matured I got better and better at it.''
Calhoun pointed to Walker's leadership as much as his playmaking as the reason the Huskies roared into its second Final Four in three years.
''He competes at a level that, quite frankly, is almost unparalleled in my 39 years of coaching,'' Calhoun said.
SAD FAREWELL: The tears in Butler's locker room were as much for the seniors as for the loss.
The 53-41 loss to Connecticut in Monday night's NCAA title game was the last in a Butler uniform for Matt Howard, Shawn Vanzant, Zach Hahn, Alex Anglin and Grant Leiendecker. The group has won 117 games in its four years, played in back-to-back national championship games and set a school record with 61 victories over the last two seasons.
''The only thoughts that are going through my mind are for these guys. What they've done is remarkable and can't be overstated,'' coach Brad Stevens said. ''When you see the freshmen in there bawling their eyes out because they know they're not going to get to play with Matt Howard again, or Zach Hahn, Alex Anglin, Grant Leiendecker, Shawn Vanzant, you know you have something pretty special.
''Seniors always get upset,'' Stevens said. ''When everybody's upset, that's a unique thing.''
CALHOUN'S HALFTIME SPEECH: Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun must have been pretty miffed at his team at halftime of its 53-41 win over Butler that gave the Huskies the national title. When asked what he told his team in the speech, he said he wouldn't say because he didn't want to end up on the Internet again.
''If I told you what I told the kids at halftime, I would probably make one of those YouTube things again (like) when somebody asked me about my salary, so I'm really not going to do that,'' he said with a laugh.
He was referring to a tirade he went on in 2009 when a freelance journalist questioned him about his then-$1.6 million salary that became a YouTube sensation.
BLUE2 FEVER: Blue 2, Butler's roly-poly English bulldog mascot, has picked up almost 1,000 new followers on Twitter since Saturday's victory over VCU that earned the Bulldogs a spot in their second straight national title game.
His photo page on Flickr drew a whopping 82,000 viewers Sunday, 25,000 more than his previous high, set Friday after he arrived in Houston.
''It's crazy. It's spreading like wildfire,'' said Michael Kaltenmark, Butler's director of web marketing and communications and Blue's master. ''People are saying, 'How can you not root for Butler with that dog?' I love it. I'm happy for Butler, and I'm happy for Blue.''
Blue became something of a celebrity during last year's Final Four, and the (puppy) lovefest has only continued to grow, thanks to Kaltenmark's use of social media.
Blue tweets, posts pictures, has a Facebook page and, when he's in Indianapolis, has a webcam so people can keep an eye on him in Kaltenmark's office.
The attention this year has astounded Kaltenmark. Blue has visited the Johnson Space Center, been on CBS' ''The Early Show'' twice, hobnobbed with Charles Barkley, and made appearances on just about every TV station in Houston and Indianapolis. He's also posed for countless pictures and been petted by anyone who can get a hand on him.
And, of course, he's been on the court when the Butler players are introduced. Blue looked even more revved up than he did Saturday, barking and jumping up as he waited for the players to come pet him. But he calmed down as the players came out to pet him or give him a scratch behind the ears, and he looked happy as he trotted off the court, a big bone hanging out of his mouth.
It's going to make returning to everyday life tough.
''He'll get bored. He'll pout,'' Kaltenmark said. ''Or nap.''
FEELING CONFIDENT: Bobby Plump was confident before Butler's national championship game against Connecticut. The 74-year-old is a Butler graduate and the man who in high school hit a last second jumper in the 1954 Indiana state title game that led to the movie ''Hoosiers.''
He planned to watch the game from his Indianapolis restaurant, Plump's Last Shot, and was expecting a couple of hundred people to join him. He was a little bit upset that it was raining in Indianapolis on Monday afternoon, so they wouldn't be able to put the overflow crowd outside. An all-conference guard at Butler who's in the school's athletic hall of fame, Plump said seeing Butler back in the championship game for the second straight year ''couldn't be better.''
Except, of course, if the Bulldogs had won.
''I was just watching Brad Stevens and the players and some of their comments. I think they handled themselves so well last year, but they're even doing better this year,'' Plump said before the game. ''Whether that's going to translate to the court, I don't know.''
BEAST OF THE EAST: Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim had a front-row seat, hoping Connecticut would win and silence critics of the Big East. The conference got a record 11 teams into the field, the Huskies were the only representative to reach the regional finals.
Boeheim said every bid was justified, and the league's disappointing overall performance in the tournament does not undermine its quality.
''I don't believe the NCAA tournament has any bearing on whether your conference is good or not,'' Boeheim said. ''What you do during the regular season determines how good your conference is. There wasn't one of those teams that anybody can look at and say, 'Well, they didn't deserve to be in the tournament.'''
Boeheim pointed out that the league was well-represented in each round.
''Everybody made a big deal out of it,'' Boeheim said. ''After all those upsets in the first two rounds, we still had 13 percent of the field - two out of 16. Now, at the end, we have 50 percent of the field.''
And by the final buzzer, the Huskies were the only team left.
IRISH EYES: Count Notre Dame coach Mike Brey among those who's amazed at Connecticut's run.
The Irish were the last team to beat the Huskies, edging them 70-67 in the regular-season finale. UConn then won five games in five days to win the Big East tournament before navigating through the NCAA tournament.
''They are the ultimate example of riding the karma, man,'' Brey said. ''And then they've got a guy in Walker who, his body language says, 'We can do this.'''
Notre Dame did not play Butler, even though the schools are separated by 140 miles. Next year, the Irish play Indiana and Butler faces Purdue in a doubleheader at Conseco Fieldhouse.
''They've really got it going now,'' Brey said. ''They're a machine.''
But Brey said the Huskies have orchestrated the better story in the NCAA tournament.
''It's just been amazing,'' he said. ''I saw them win in New York, and somehow, they got their legs back under them. And now, like I said, they're just riding the karma.''
BUSH'S SECOND PICK: President George H.W. Bush's pick to win the national title fizzled with Kentucky's loss to Connecticut in the national semifinals.
So did his pick to win the title.
Bush said before the Huskies' victory Monday night that he was picking Butler ''because their cheerleaders were nice to me.'' The 41st president got plenty of attention from them during the VCU game Saturday - they surrounded him to pose for a picture.
''Just look at the way they play. They're fighters,'' Bush said of the Bulldogs.
Bush and his wife, Barbara, live in the Houston area most of the year and have taken in both days of the Final Four. Barbara said she liked the Bulldogs' underdog spirit.
''It's a school of only 4,000 students and look at this. It's amazing,'' she said, looking over at Butler's student section. ''Now that George's team is out, I'm pulling for Butler, too.''
AUGUSTA-BOUND: Former Masters champion Nick Faldo was in the crowd and planned to fly to Georgia with CBS commentator Jim Nantz on Tuesday morning to prepare for this week's telecast.
Defending champion Phil Mickelson won the Houston Open over the weekend, moving up to No. 3 in the world rankings to pass Tiger Woods for the first time since 1997. Faldo thinks the switch is significant, not only for the players but also the game.
''It's a big momentum shift,'' Faldo said. ''Tiger is not feeling his own game right now.''
Faldo likes Lefty's chances this week at Augusta, but he thinks as many as 20 players have a legitimate chance to win the green jacket this week.
''You can't predict it,'' Faldo said. ''I'd say I've got about five or six guys who I'd consider favorites, and Phil's got to be one of them. But Martin Kaymer's got a good enough game, and several other guys, if they're on for that one week, anything can happen.''
AP Sports Writers Nancy Armour, Chris Duncan, Will Graves and John Marshall contributed to this report.