As you can imagine, a pretty exciting time for us.
After spending a lot of time watching some film the last day and a half, I thought Dick Vitale said it best the other night, that's what I'm going to stick with, that this is no Cinderella team in Butler. They are in name, but they aren't as far as program.
This program not only has won over quite a few years now, but this, unlike George Mason, for us was a ranked team from the beginning, a top-10 team from the beginning. What they did is they did something most teams can't: they started out there and they ended up there. That speaks volumes for their coach, their program, and their players.
I think, you know, two definite guys that have a chance to be pro players, I've been impressed with Mack, everybody knows they've got a lot of good players, but the kid Mack has impressed me as much as anybody just because he can do so many things. He is a Chauncey Billups type clone, doesn't panic, has size and strength. They run a lot of good things.
If anybody questions whether it's just the Hoosiers, it's not the Hoosiers, it's a team that has been there from the beginning. It's deserved everything it's gotten.
As far as the home court advantage, I sure do know what that's like. I'm hoping it doesn't work for them like it did for us against UConn. I'm hoping it works for them like it did against North Carolina for us.
I say that because I think we've learned, realized to play in the Final Four, the distractions that go along with it, which I thought our players handled well last year, are one thing. But we also went down to Indianapolis, played in this dome before, and played a Louisville team that had 30,000 people there, and we found a way to win that way.
We've got a lot of things ahead. We've got a lot of work to do. But we're as excited as you can be.
Q. Everybody loves the Butler story. They're playing at home. You know what it's like, the emotion of playing at home last year. Do you worry at all about your team getting swallowed up by that huge story? COACH IZZO: Well, I do a little bit. I said I remember in the third Final Four we went to, we played Gonzaga and Temple. You know, everybody was in love with Gonzaga. It was in Atlanta. It wasn't at home. But they were all in love with Gonzaga. John Cheney was one of the guys that got me going on scheduling hard. He was one of the first big schools to come in here and play us. So I had a special affection. Those were like the two America's teams at the time. I felt like the guy who shot Bambi because, you know, that happened, and we won. But at the same time I think our players realized that, you know, last year they sat there and got clobbered down there and made kind of a point to say, We got to get back next year and we got to take one more step. So I love Butler. I love Brad. I think he's done an incredible job. I really like their players, what they stand for. I watched Hoosiers, so I know what their arena is like, all those things. But, you know, there's no sentimental thing from us. I don't think our players will get caught up in that because we've been through 75,000 people at a game. We've been through 38,000, 35,000 at Louisville fans. We've kind of been through that. I think these guys figure that, you know, maybe it's their destiny, maybe it's our destiny. We paid the price last year, a lot this year. We'll see who plays better. I don't know if destiny will have an effect either one. Q. I think it was Jim Boeheim who said on the radio yesterday about Butler's guards, how good they are defensively. I think he called them the best two defensive guards he's seen in a decade. Do you see the same thing? COACH IZZO: Yeah. If there's one thing that has impressed me that you wouldn't think about, they are really, really good defensively. Now, ironically we've just played another, I guess they call them, mid-major. I kind of fear using that word because it's not true. But if you look at Northern Iowa, they were really good defensively. Both teams have some toughness and are very, very good defensively.
I've been really impressed with both guards. I've been really impressed with what seems likes an opening here, and all of a sudden, boom, they close it up so quick. They do not extend. They play a lot like -- I'd say it's more of a team that the guards, like when we had Cleaves and Bell, they play a lot inside out. But they just don't give you many looks and openings. That's what we're going to have to try to exploit.
GoSpartans.net Managing Editor Mike Fowler has elected to retire from sports reporting after 10 years covering the Detroit Lions, Detroit Tigers, Detroit Pistons, CART auto racing, LPGA golf, PGA golf, NCAA sporting events, high school and prep athletics and his favorite assignment, covering Michigan State athletics. Wednesday, March 31st marks his final day at Scout.com.