Monday, November 22, 2010

Butler Comes to Albany For Siena Game

How many times does a team that played for a national title the previous year come to the homecourt of a MAAC program the following season, slightly more than eight months removed from an NCAA tournament's championship contest?

Probably not often, if at all. But, it happens Tuesday night (Nov. 23) at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y., when Butler returns last season's BracketBusters meeting with Siena on the Saints' home court.

Butler lost to Duke in last season's national championship contest, but not before Gordon Hayward's 3-pointer at the buzzer failed to fall, allowing the Blue Devils to escape with a 61-59 victory.

Butler's contest against Siena Tuesday comes three days after the Saints gave first-year coach Mitch Buonaguro his first victory as a head coach in 19 seasons, or since he last directed a program when he was at Fairfield in the 1990-91 season.

Buonaguro has been around college basketball continually since then, including seven seasons as an assistant at Cleveland State under that program's former head coach Rollie Massimino. While there, he worked the opposite sideline against Horizon League counterpart Butler twice annually.

So three days after getting his first victory as a head coach in 19 years, Buonaguro is looking for another first ... a victory against Butler.

"I know them well and respect them greatly," said Buonaguro. "They do things the right way there. We played them twice annually when I was at Cleveland State and we never beat them, so that will be on my mind a little when we play them (Tuesday)."

In seven years, Buonaguro had been 0-14 as an assistant coach when he was at Cleveland State in games with the Bulldogs, and 0-1 as a Siena assistant when the teams met this past February.

"They've been to the NCAA tournament 10 times since 1996," pointed out Buonaguro. "Butler and Gonzaga set the standard for mid-major programs. But, I don't consider them to be mid-majors. Those are two major college programs."

Butler's only real loss since last season was Hayward, who left school early to be an NBA first-round draft choice. Back, though, are the team's next two leading scorers, 6-3 junior guard Shelvin Mack, who averaged 14.1 points and 3.0 assists per game last season; and, 6-8 senior forward Matt Howard, who averaged 11.6 points and 5.2 rebounds last season.

"I did the scout on them for last year's game, and they're the type team that doesn't beat itself ... you have to beat them if you want to win," said Buonaguro. "They just have a classy program. People in Albany are really goinig to enjoy watching them play."

And, Buonaguro will enjoy the night just a little more if he can add another first to his budding Siena coaching resume ... his first victory over Butler.

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