Commentary

Butler sealed the deal with defense

Updated: April 4, 2010, 9:29 AM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

Lucas Oil Stadium was rocking and rolling as the hometown heroes, Brad Stevens' Butler Bulldogs, moved onto the championship game on Monday night.

My friends, it is incredible in this day and age, with the shot clock and the three-point shot, to see a team hold quality opponents below 60 points in five straight tourney games. Butler continued this improbable trend by holding Tom Izzo's squad to just 50. .

The Bulldogs have done it with defense all season long. Only three opponents have scored 70 or more against Butler. To have that kind of success in the big dance is amazing. Think about it... stopping a Syracuse team which led the nation in field goal percentage. Beating a Kansas State club with the outstanding duo of Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente.

Then came the Spartans with Raymar Morgan and company. I know, this was a different team with Kalin Lucas watching on the sidelines. Still, it was defense, defense, defense that got the job done.

Raymar Morgan
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesThe lack of points and rebounds from Raymar Morgan hurt the Spartans.
Michigan state was strictly a halfcourt team with Lucas hurt. The Spartans got nothing on transition. It would have been a different offense if Lucas was in the lineup.

Butler doesn't allow many spurts. The Bulldogs did a great job converting turnovers into points, holding a 20-2 advantage in that category. Another key was the foul line, where Butler hit seven more (17-of-24 compared to 10-of-18 for the Spartans).

I loved watching the way the Butler defenders got into their stance. They are a team playing with a purpose and their team defense can be stifling. Butler makes you have to execute in your offensive sets. Defensively they get to the spot and make it difficult to get quality shots.

Fouls also hurt Michigan State as Raymar Morgan fouled out with just four points and five boards. As I have said in the past, Michigan State needs Morgan to get at least 10 points and eight boards to have a better chance of getting to the winner's circle.

One key play to the win came in the final two minutes. Up two points, Shawn Vanzant got a rebound and passed to Gordon Hayward for a layup. Michigan State could not recover after that, even with a last-second opportunity.

Hayward also played solid defense on Michigan State's Draymond Green late, forcing a difficult shot. Hayward was the star of stars with 19 points, nine rebounds and that game-saving defensive effort.

Tom Izzo did a tremendous job leading the Spartans to their sixth Final Four in 12 seasons. The team recorded 28 wins, but it fell short.

It is amazing that Butler shot 24 percent in the second half and still won the contest. The Cinderella story continues as Butler moves on to Monday night's title game.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.