View Mobile Site

NCAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP NOTEBOOK

POSTED April 4, 2011 9:46 p.m.

@font-face { font-family: "Times New Roman"; }@font-face { font-family: "Verdana"; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }table.MsoNormalTable { font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }<span style="font-size: 13pt; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">HOUSTON (AP) — 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.</span>

"This is a dream come true for me," the 27-year-old Butler graduate said before the Bulldog's game against 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," he said. "Was it Division II, was it Division III? Do they even have athletics?.

___

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.

With the national championship game against Butler on Monday night, 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 in the title game.

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.

Overlooked a bit when the year began, Walker has played with a chip on his shoulder.

"I wasn't picked on any first teams or anything in the preseason, and that was just motivation for me to get to this point," Walker said. "All my hard work is paying off."

Walker hasn't decided whether to return as a senior. He is expected to graduate in May.

___

BLUE2 FEVER: The Butler bandwagon keeps on growing, and it's being driven by a guy with four paws and fur.

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 very confident before Butler's national championship game against Connecticut.

The 74-year-old Plump is a Butler graduate and the man who in high school hit a last second jump shot in the 1954 Indiana state championship game that led to the movie "Hoosiers."

"My feeling is that they're going to win," he said without hesitation in a phone interview with The Associated Press from Indianapolis. "I have a little better feeling after the game Saturday than I did the previous game, because they gave a little breather at the end and didn't wait for the last second to win. I feel pretty comfortable."

He'll watch the game from his Indianapolis restaurant, Plump's Last Shot, and is 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. They were working to put up a tent to keep the patrons who couldn't fit in the restaurant dry.

An all-conference guard at Butler who's in the school's athletic hall of fame, Plump says seeing Butler back in the championship game for the second straight year "couldn't be better."

He likes the way the team is dealing with the pressure of being in college basketball's brightest spotlight.

"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," he said. "Whether that's going to translate to the court, I don't know. But I think they're ready for it. I just feel pretty good about it."

___

IRISH EYES: Count Notre Dame coach Mike Brey among those who's amazed at Connecticut's run to the championship game. The Irish were the last team to beat the Huskies, edging them 70-67 in the regular-season finale. Connecticut then won five games in five days to earn the Big East tournament championship 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 only about 140 miles. Next year, the Irish play Indiana and Butler will face Purdue in an in-state 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.

Now, he's got a new favorite.

"Butler — because their cheerleaders were nice to me," Bush joked.

The 41st president did get plenty of attention from the cheerleaders during the VCU game Saturday — they surrounded him to pose for a picture — but that's not why he picked Butler.

"Just look at the way they play. They're fighters," said Bush, who's a bit feisty himself.

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, like George, likes the underdog spirit of the Bulldogs.

"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 was flying to Augusta, Ga. 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.

"It's a big momentum shift," Faldo said. "Tiger is not feeling his own game right now."

Faldo likes Lefty's chances this week, 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."

___

MUFFET ON BUTLER: Notre Dame women's coach Muffet McGraw was asked about her team's run to the championship game in Indianapolis on Tuesday night, where the Fighting Irish will play Texas A&M. She, of course, knows Butler made the run to the title game in Indy a year ago.

"We thought about watching 'Hoosiers' on the way down" from the South Bend campus, McGraw said Monday before Butler squared off with UConn for the men's championship. "It's certainly a great thing for the state of Indiana ... I see a lot of people wearing Butler shirts while they're at our games, and we're cheering for them, too."

COMMENTS

  • Bookmark and Share

Commenting not available.
Commenting is not available.

POST A COMMENT


Please wait ...