Fatigue was definitely an issue for Kansas State following the double-overtime thriller on Thursday night. Regardless of what CBS’ Seth Greenberg said afterward, I think it is a legitimate excuse. The Wildcats still played hard, but in the high altitude of Salt Lake they were a step slow. It seems to me we should acknowledge this in a way that doesn’t detract from Butler’s achievement—the Bulldogs, after all, are no different than countless Final Four teams from the past who simply took advantage of the opportunities that were in front of them. And fatigue or no, Butler still took at the top two seeds in this region to complete their run to glory. Free-throw scoring was the key difference, as the Bulldogs won it by seven points, the exact victory margin. Gordon Heyward had 22 points and nine rebounds. For K-State, no one other than Jacob Pullen, Denis Clemente, and Curtis Kelly got involved in the offense and none of those three were spectacular.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins rolled the dice and had his team come out firing from three-point range early on. I have my doubts about whether this was wise strategy—it seemed to presume a talent gap that required innovation and daring to overcome, and I’m not sure that was the case. It could have blown up in his face, but it worked brilliantly. The Mountaineers hit ten from behind the arc, most of them in the first half, that opened up a lot of room in the second half. Kentucky was victimized by a bad night from the field, an astonishing 4-for-32 from long range and 16-of-29 from the line. It does beg the question of why they kept launching when they controlled the interior. But it appears that the problems of youth finally caught up to the Wildcats and Huggins gets a well-earned trip to the Final Four.
See you back here tonight after Tennessee-Michigan State & Duke-Baylor fill out the Indianapolis card. Over at The Baseball Notebook, the Yankees preview completes the preseason overview of all thirty MLB teams.