Old Dominion hopes to steal Cinderella's slipper from last-year's mid-major darlings, as the 9th-seeded Monarchs drew the 8-seeded Butler Bulldogs in a first-round Southeast Region matchup in Washington, DC in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. ODU qualified as the champions of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, while Butler overcame a slow start to win the Horizon League tournament.
The Bulldogs, who came within inches of knocking off Duke in last year's NCAA Tournament championship game, struggled in out of conference play. Coach Brad Stevens' squad fell to national powers Louisville and Duke, but also stumbled against Evansville and Xavier. Butler took some time to get warmed up in Horizon League play, as well, beginning conference action 5-5 before running off nine consecutive wins, earning the Horizon's autobid with a 59-44 win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the title game.
The media angle will clearly be the battle between ODU's rugged Frank Hassell and Butler's talented big man, Matt Howard. Butler's 6'8", 230-pound senior averaged 16.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. While the Godzilla/King Kong interior matchup will generate headlines, the ability of ODU's perimeter players to handle Butler's Shelvin Mack and a balanced bunch of contributors is critical to their ability to move on. Kent Bazemore will be a key for the Monarchs. Both squads are terrific defensive rebounders, but the Monarchs' tenacity on the offensive boards may be the telling difference.
The winner of this contest will likely take on second-seeded Pittsburgh in the second round.