Who would’ve thought Butler and VCU would be meeting in the Final Four? It’s crazy, but true.
The primary reason both teams are in Houston? Their coaches: Butler’s Brad Stevens and VCU’s Shaka Smart.
Stevens is only 34 years old and Smart is just 33. What makes these coaches so special is that they were able to lead mid-major programs to the NCAA tournament’s final weekend.
“He [Stevens] gets our team to prepare really well,” Butler senior Matt Howard said. “I know that he does a great job of preparing us to play every game, and he makes adjustments.
“You can tell that his mind is working throughout the game, always has something in mind when we get back to a timeout.”
Butler has won all four of its NCAA tournament games by single digits, including three by three points or less. Butler center Andrew Smith credits the close wins to Stevens.
“His calmness has rubbed off on all of us and, obviously, that’s paid off in these first four tournament games because all of them have been so close.”
VCU guard Bradford Burgess said it isn’t a small coincidence that Smart’s last name is what it is.
“He’s just so smart. He’s Coach Smart. He just knows the game,” Burgess said.
And this isn’t the first Final Four for Stevens. His Bulldogs lost to Duke in the championship game last year. Afterward, he signed a long-term deal with Butler. Smart has a chance to get there with VCU, and his players hope he stays for the long haul.
“His wife ‘Miss Maya’ says she’s not moving, so I don’t think he’s gonna be going anywhere for quite some time,” said Burgess. “I think he looks forward to building something great here.”