Teams relaxed, ready for more

Already sweet, NCAA Tournament regional poised for elite finish.
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One team came from behind to beat the top-seeded national championship contender in the biggest win in school history. The other survived an epic double-overtime shootout for the ages that dropped the sports world's collective jaw to the floor.

So how can they possibly top that?

Fans will find out today when the Butler Bulldogs and Kansas State Wildcats square off in the NCAA Tournament West Regional final at EnergySolutions Arena for the right to advance to the Final Four next week in Indianapolis. The Bulldogs never have been to the Final Four -- it's being played this season in their hometown -- while the Wildcats have not made it since 1964.

"We're antsy to play," KSU's Jacob Pullen said. "Any team would be antsy to play. It's a big game. At the same time, we're still focused. We're still calm. We feel like we're taking another step towards where we want to be at the end of our season."

Certainly, both teams appeared as relaxed Friday as they had been intense the night before.

The Bulldogs teased center Matt Howard about his wispy mustache that resembles the one worn by the legendary Larry Bird -- "I wish I could shoot like Larry Bird," Howard said -- while KSU's Denis Clemente happily gobbled a sandwich in between questions at a news conference, his teammates giggling alongside him.

"I just can't believe where we're at right now," Clemente said.

Oddmakers have made the Wildcats a four-point favorite despite the fact that they were jumping, shoving, sprinting and straining deep into the night -- at an uncomfortable elevation, no less -- to finally beat Xavier in what coach Frank Martin said "could be as good a game as has been played in the NCAA basketball tournament in awhile."

All the while, the Bulldogs were back at their hotel, relaxing after their stunning upset of Syracuse and enjoying like everybody else the classic battle royale that played out before their eyes on television.

"Just being a basketball fan, I was getting excited myself at the plays that both teams were making," Butler's Willie Veasley said. "It was just an amazing game."

Yet nobody seems to expect the late-night drama to have an effect on today's game, even though the Wildcats all acknowledged either not being able to sleep after their history-making victory or not getting to bed until 3 or 4 in the morning.

"Not at all," said KSU's Jamar Samuels, who had to turn off his cell phone so the flood of congratulatory calls and text messages wouldn't keep waking him. "All of us played AAU basketball, and in AAU basketball, we played at least five or six games in one weekend. So fatigue isn't really an issue for us right now. We're just trying to concentrate and stay focused on the game."

The fifth-seeded Bulldogs are trying to become the lowest-seeded team to reach the Final Four since George Mason's improbable run as a No. 11 seed in 2006, and perhaps are trying to get everybody to quit referring to them as a "mid-major."

But improving on the classics from the Sweet 16 looks like a tall order -- one that might require, say, more than just a couple of overtimes.

If that should somehow happen, the teams might approach the tournament records for most overtime periods played or most points scored in overtime, both set by the Utah Utes in their 127-120 four-overtime loss to St. Joseph's in the national third-place game back in 1961.

Simply winning, however, probably will be enough for either team.

"They're not going to take any plays off," Butler's Ronald Nored said. "They're going to be ready to go, no matter how many overtimes they went into, and we'll have to match that. We'll have to be poised against that. I think we've been that way up until this point. ... We've done a good job of handling those kinds of situations."

No. 5 Butler vs. No. 2 Kansas State

Elite 8, today, 2:30 p.m.

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