Only One Thing Left

Becoming the school's first Associated Press All-American in nearly four decades was "cool" in the words of the Mountaineers' Da'Sean Butler. Perhaps his understatement is because he knows that award would pale in comparison to bringing home the program's first-ever national championship this weekend.

"I'm glad they took a look," said the senior, who, by receiving the AP's second-team nod, became the first WVU player to earn such honors since Wil Robinson made the third-team in 1972.

"I wasn't on the (candidates) list at all, so I'm glad they gave me an opportunity, looked at how I did during the year and thought I played well. So it's cool. But it's just another thing to look at after the season. I'm going to stay focused on what's coming up."

That, of course, is Saturday's national semifinal game with Duke, the champions of the South region, at the Final Four in Indianapolis. It's the first time the Mountaineer program is among the last quartet of teams seeking college basketball's ultimate prize since 1959.

And while Butler and company have already met or exceeded every expectation with what is arguably the greatest season in school history as it stands, the Newark, N.J., native wants more.

"I could care less if I only score one point," said the guard/forward, "if I have every rebound possible and every steal possible and I do everything I possibly can to help my team win -- you know, lead them to a national championship."

Of course, there is plenty of familiarity between the Blue Devils and WVU, as Butler and company knocked out the No. 2-seeded Duke team 73-67 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2008.

Back then, Mountaineer forward Joe Alexander was on his way to becoming a lottery pick in the NBA Draft, while Gerald Henderson, DeMarcus Nelson, Greg Paulus and a cast of talented players for head coach Mike Krzyzewski's squad were sent home early.

"We remember and they remember," said Butler. "Hopefully history repeats itself and we take care of business and win the game."

Butler was a mere sophomore on that West Virginia team and had a relatively unremarkable day, playing only 19 minutes before fouling out with eight points and five rebounds.

Instead, it was Alexander who carried the load, scoring 22 points and grabbing 11 boards, while Joe Mazzulla came off the bench to terrorize Duke with 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

Mazzulla is back and once again making headlines heading into the Final Four after a similarly heroic performance to knock off Kentucky in the East regional final in Syracuse last Saturday night.

But Butler knows that he will have the attention of several key Blue Devils players -- like Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith -- who have also grown into key contributors during their time in Durham.

"Those guys are all juniors and seniors now, obviously," said WVU's third-leading all-time scorer. "They've matured. I wouldn't say it reminds me of the same team, but they obviously have the same schemes and the same great coach."

"But their big three is making shots. When we played them, they didn't make that many shots (38.0 percent from the field). They kind of put up a lot of 3s and didn't make any of them. This year, they did a really good job of becoming more consistent in making shots."

And while this is clearly the most important game in the lives of Butler, the rest of the Mountaineers (and the Duke players, as well), the senior is trying his best to avoid letting the hoopla and hype effect his preparation for this weekend.

"We want to treat it like any other game, just play hard every time down the floor," he said. "Granted, this is an important part of the season, but I kind of try to look at it like no one game is more important than any other game."

Of course, it may help that, once again, West Virginia finds itself as the betting-line underdog heading into Saturday's semifinal.

"I guess we've got to pull off another miracle," Butler said, smiling. "It's just a matter of what we do on the court. We don't play the prettiest game in the world, but we do take care of late game situations. We play very well in the last half."

"Vegas never really picks us anyway. West Virginia does."


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