Horizon League champion Cleveland State University learned its first-round opponent in the 2009 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship, while regular-season winner Butler University earned an at-large bid when the NCAA Men's Basketball Committee announced the tournament bracket Sunday evening.
Cleveland State (25-10) will make its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1986 as the 13th seed in the Midwest Region and will meet fourth-seed Wake Forest University (24-6) on Friday at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Fla. The winner will face either fifth-seed University of Utah or 12th-seed University of Arizona in the second round on Sunday.
Butler (26-5) returns to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season and is the ninth seed in the South Region, where the Bulldogs will take on eighth-seed and Southeastern Conference regular-season champion Louisiana State University (26-7) on Thursday at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C. The winner will meet top-seed University of North Carolina or Radford University in the second round on Saturday.
The Horizon League has earned two bids for the second time in three years and third time in the past seven seasons. Including this season, Butler has received the League's last three at-large bids (2003, '07) and has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen on both previous occasions.
The Horizon League is one of only nine (of 31) conferences to boast multiple bids in this year's tournament and one of just three outside the `Big Six' alongside the Atlantic-10 (3) and Mountain West (2).
A Horizon League team has advanced to the NCAA's Sweet Sixteen each of the last three odd-numbered years - Butler in 2003, Milwaukee in 2005, and Butler again in 2007.
Horizon League teams have won at least one game in the NCAA Tournament each of the last four years - Milwaukee in 2005 and '06, and Butler in 2007 and '08 - and seven times in the past decade. (Detroit in 1999, and Butler in 2001 and '03.)
Last season, Butler defeated the University of South Alabama 81-61 in the first round in Birmingham, Ala., before falling to the University of Tennessee 76-71 in second-round action.
Horizon League teams own eight NCAA Tournament wins in the past six years, which is more than such conferences as the Colonial (6), Mountain West (6), West Coast (6) and WAC (5), and just one shy of the nine by the Missouri Valley, despite receiving nearly half as many bids in that time (8 to the Valley's 14).
Butler is the first Horizon League team to advance to the NCAA Tournament three consecutive seasons since former member Xavier University went to six straight from 1986-91.
Cleveland State's NCAA berth is its first since 1986 when the Vikings defeated Indiana University and St. Joseph's University to advance to the Sweet Sixteen before falling to the U.S. Naval Academy.
Cleveland State won its first Horizon League championship last Tuesday with a 57-54 victory over top-seed Butler on the Bulldogs' home court. Vikings guard Cedric Jackson scored a game-high 19 points and was named the tournament's MVP.
Butler features the League's Player of the Year in sophomore Matt Howard, its Newcomer of the Year in freshman Gordon Hayward and Coach of the Year in second-year mentor Brad Stevens. Howard and Hayward were first-team All-League selections.
Cleveland State boasts a first-team All-League pick in senior J'Nathan Bullock and a second-teamer in senior Cedric Jackson, who also was voted the League's Defensive Player of the Year.
With two wins in the NCAA Tournament, Cleveland State would advance to the Midwest Region semi-finals, which will be co-hosted by the Horizon League and Butler at Lucas Oil Stadium March 27 and 29 in downtown Indianapolis.
Tags: Butler - Men's Basketball · Cleveland State - Men's Basketball