While Joe Alexander has been getting kudos for his scoring explosions and Darris Nichols draws raves for his masterful direction of the offense, it has been Da'Sean Butler who has provided continuous and steady play in support of his teammates. While Alexander's dunks or Nichols' rainbow threes draw attention, it has been the quieter, yet no less valuable, contributions of Butler that have helped West Virginia's run through the postseason.
Butler's under the radar play comes in a variety of forms. When he scores, it typically doesn't come in bunches. Nor do his points come on similar types of plays. He typically hits a couple of threes, scores a couple of baskets on drives or twisting moves, nails a pull up jumper, and grabs a couple of offensive rebounds. And before you know it, Butler has 15 or 17 points, seven or eight rebounds, and the Mountaineers have another win.
In West Virginia's 75-65 win over Arizona in the first round of the Tournament, the full range of Butler's play was on display. In the first half, he hit a three-pointer to get WVU off to a good start. He spun into the lane, throwing fakes all the way, and got to the basket for a hoop. And he grabbed four big offensive rebounds, two of which he turned into stickback baskets that proved key as the Mountaineers turned back every challenge the Wildcats had to offer.
The only thing more consistent than Butler's steady production has been the way in which his play has been overlooked. It always seems as if one teammate has more points, or another has a more eye-catching play, that puts him in the shadows. Some players might be upset with appearing to play second fiddle, but the cheerful Butler has no such issues.
"I don't mind," he said with a laugh following West Virginia's win. "Everybody that came into the game today contributed. I am happy for everybody. I don't think about it if someone has more points or rebounds than me."
It would be easy for Butler to pout when he doesn't get attention for the many things he does on the floor, but it's simply not in his nature. A hard worker who doesn't have the ability to soar over defenders for scores or power through foes for shots, Butler manufactures his points and rebounds with equal measures of guile and fakery. His array of spin moves and ball fakes keep defenders off balance, but just aren't as attention getting as tomahawk jams.
A quick look at WVU's stat book confirms both his consistency and his position just out of the limelight. Butler is tied for first in rebounding, is first in shooting percentage, and third on the team in minutes and points. However, it's not likely that anyone would guess Butler's spot in those categories, so quietly has he earned those places.
For West Virginia to continue to advance int he NCAA tournament, it will have to keep getting the average Da'Sean Butler peformance, which checks in at 12.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. The question is, if he does provide it, will anyone notice?