LEXINGTON – How much will the memory of Butler senior guard Rotnei Clarke sinking Marquette on a last-second shot in November affect the outcome of Saturday's NCAA Tournament game at Rupp Arena between the two teams?
A lot prior to the tip, according to the Golden Eagle players, but not so much thereafter.
The Bulldogs (27-8) will face Marquette (24-8) at approximately 7:45 p.m. on Saturday.
It was four months ago that Clarke took the ball and zig-zagged up the court as the clock ticked down in the Maui Invitational, pulled up from so far away that his feet were in sand, and buried a jumper to beat Marquette 72-71.
“It's great to have another opportunity to play them again,” Marquette guard Junior Cadougan said. “It's going to be another tough game. It's the NCAA Tournament, nothing is a cakewalk.”
No game against Butler ever is.
The tremendous shot was a lead-in on all of the highlight shows when it occurred, but it's taken on new life since ESPN has marketed its college basketball coverage by featuring it frequently in promotional spots.
“I would say that it's fresh in their minds,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said of the shot and his players. “They've seen the commercial countless times on ESPN.”
The experience of playing each other previously can be an advantage in some regards for both teams. The players will be familiar with each other and because of how challenging the game was and neither will take the other lightly. However, from a strategic standpoint, Williams feels this will be an entirely new experience.
“Butler hasn't been to two Final Fours because they are the same team that they were in November,” Williams said. “(Butler coach Brad Stevens) is a genius and they made a shot, and they made a commercial out of the shot. They're a completely different team because they're going to get better. They continue to improve. That's why they are the program that they are and he's the coach that he is.”