INDIANAPOLIS — Gonzaga served as the model program for college basketball’s non-power conference schools for more than decade.
Butler took that blueprint, revised it and came up with even better results.
Today, college basketball fans will finally get to see America’s two biggest little schools play each other at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse with all the trimmings: A prime-time tip and a national audience on ESPN.
“You talk about the Final Four, bucket list. You talk about Maui (Invitational), bucket list, Preseason NIT, bucket list,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said. “So when (College) GameDay comes to town, you play when they tell you to play.”
The showcase also happens to pit two of America’s best teams, No. 8 Gonzaga and No. 13 Butler, and both are on a roll.
Two-time national runner-up Butler (15-2, 3-0 Atlantic 10) has won 12 in a row since losing to Illinois in Maui two months ago.
It has already upset then-No. 1 Indiana and then-No. 9 North Carolina, as well as three traditional A-10 front-runners in St. Joseph’s, Dayton and Richmond. It has beaten teams from the ACC (North Carolina), Big East (Marquette), Southeastern Conference (Vanderbilt) and two Big Ten schools (Indiana and Northwestern), none of them at Hinkle.
Gonzaga (17-1, 4-0 West Coast Conference) has won eight in a row, is off to the best start in school history and has its own laundry list of big-time wins.
The Zags have beaten Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia of the Big 12, Clemson of the ACC and Washington State of the Pac-12. Like Butler, Gonzaga’s only loss came to Illinois.
KENTUCKY: Forward Willie Cauley-Stein is out after undergoing a ‘minor procedure’ on his left knee.
The 7-foot freshman did not practice Friday before the Wildcats (11-5, 2-1) departed for tonight’s SEC game at Auburn.
Cauley-Stein’s availability for today is uncertain after Thursday’s procedure.
NO. 15 LOUISVILLE 72,
In Louisville, Ky., Antonita Slaughter scored 13 points to lead four players in double figures as the Cardinals (15-4, 3-2 Big East) routed Cincinnati (8-9, 0-4).
Sara Hammond added 12, Shoni Schimmel had 11 and Megan Deines 10 for Louisville.