Thursday, January 30, 2003

Duke next giant in Butler's sights

16-2 Bulldogs at Cameron tonight, eyeing an upset

The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS - Butler guard Darnell Archey spent the summer preparing for one game: Duke. When he lifted weights, Archey thought of the Blue Devils. When he played pickup games, he envisioned himself making the same moves against Duke.

Tonight, Archey and his teammates will stop playing Duke in their minds and take it on for real at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

"You always want to go against the best," Archey said. "We know that playing against Duke will put us on the map."

It's a rare opportunity on the national stage for Butler, which quietly is building a reputation as the Duke of the mid-majors.

While the No.5 Blue Devils (13-2) have become the nation's elite program, winning three national titles and making nine Final Four appearances since 1986, the Bulldogs (16-2) consistently have ranked among the best of the rest recently.

From 1996-2002, the Bulldogs won 140 games and made four NCAA appearances despite having three different coaches - Barry Collier, current Xavier coach Thad Matta and Todd Lickliter.

This year, the team from the private school of about 4,000 students has been threatening to crack the Top 25 since a 10-0 start, the second straight year Butler went into late December as one of a handful of unbeaten teams.

There is little doubt how troubling the Bulldogs' deliberate offense can be. The short, quick passes sometimes resemble a Harlem Globetrotters drill, and even the best opponents have struggled.

In March 2000, Florida escaped with a 69-68 overtime victory over Butler in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Gators eventually reached the national championship game before losing to Michigan State.

In January 2001, Butler upset No.10 Wisconsin 58-44 in Madison and two months later knocked off No.23 Wake Forest 79-63 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin reached the Final Four that season.

Last year, the Bulldogs pulled a rare double by beating Purdue and Indiana in nonconference play and then took Syracuse to overtime in the second round of the NIT before losing 66-65.

This year, the Bulldogs rank second nationally in fewest turnovers per game (10.6) and seventh in scoring defense (58.0). Butler hopes that will help it compete today in a game it has worked toward for months.

Still, the Bulldogs are without the one commodity so few mid-majors get - respect.

After going 25-5 last season and gaining its first Top 25 ranking since 1948, Butler was left out of the NCAA Tournament. The selection committee cited a low RPI rating. When Lickliter tried to strengthen the schedule this season, none of the national powers was willing to schedule a home-and-home series to visit Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse. So he accepted the Duke game to reward his players.

ARIZONA: The Arizona athletic department is investigating an accusation that star forward Luke Walton was a lookout while other players stole money and candy from a Lawrence, Kan., hotel vending machine.

A guest saw men wearing jackets of the top-ranked Wildcats grab up to 80 candy bars and change from the machine before the Wildcats beat the Kansas Jayhawks Saturday, police Lt. Dave Cobb said Wednesday.

The man, Stuart Schwartz of Chicago, identified Walton but said he wasn't sure about the identities of the other players, he told police.

The Marriott Spring Hill Suites decided not to press charges, but the school's athletic department is investigating and could punish the players.

Coach Lute Olson called the accusations "a bunch of hogwash," and Walton denied involvement.

Hotel manager Stephanie Bowler said the team gave her $80 for the candy before returning home and that she considered the matter closed.

ARKANSAS: Lawyers for former Arkansas basketball coach Nolan Richardson added the university's Board of Trustees and the Razorback Foundation to his federal lawsuit against the school Wednesday.

The amended complaint also included a right-to-sue letter issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. But the EEOC declined to join the case.

The university is scheduled to file its response to the original case Friday. The school had not yet been served with the amended complaint filed Wednesday.

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