Hitting the game-winning shot is no once-in-a-lifetime thrill for West Virginia guard Da'Sean Butler. The senior has done it six times in the final 20 seconds this season, including twice in the Big East Tournament.
So if the Mountaineers are in a buzzer-beating situation today against Missouri, everyone in HSBC Arena should know who the ball is going to.
"Honestly, I have no choice in the matter. It's pretty much I know it's coming, the ball is going to be coming to me," Butler said here Saturday. "My team trusts me to take that big shot. It's something I practice and do every day as far as just taking shots and just working at it."
Butler broke Cincinnati's hearts in the Big East quarterfinals by banking home a three-pointer at the horn from the top of the key. His runner with four seconds left against Georgetown gave the Mountaineers their first Big East Tournament title.
"My teammates trust me to make the play," Butler said. "When I go to get the ball, before I get the ball, I just worry about the correct footwork and what I have to do during that play so I can get the ball and execute. But, you know, other than that, it's just motion. I can't really tell you what I'm thinking exactly at that time."
"When you look at what he did in the Big East Tournament, that's phenomenal," said Mizzou coach Mike Anderson. "Guys know you're going to get the ball. They know what you're going to do. He just comes through. That's a big-time player there. That tells me he's got a lot of heart."
How does Butler do it?
"I think it's pretty simple. Da'Sean wants to win," said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. "I remember he kind of liked playing with [former Mountaineer] Joe Alexander because Joe got all the attention. And then Joe decided to declare early [for the 2008 NBA Draft], and coming back Da'Sean was our best player.
"I think he got 36, 38 [points], something like that in our first exhibition game and he apologized all night. Apologized to his teammates, he apologized to the media, he apologized to the coaches. I'm like, 'What's wrong with you, man?' He said, 'Coach, I don't want to hog the ball.' I said, 'Get used to it because we're going to throw it to you because you're our best player.' "
"He's just always ready to play," added senior forward Wellington Smith. "No matter what, he's always ready to take the big shot. We have confidence in him to take that big shot. When your teammates have confidence in you, when your coach has confidence in you and you have confidence in yourself because of those factors, what else is stopping you?"
Villanova's loss to Saint Mary's means the Big East has lost five of its eight teams in the tournament. The Big 12, meanwhile, went 5-2 in the first round and the Mizzou-West Virginia game is thus proving to be a flashpoint for Big East versus Big 12 discussion.
A reporter from the Kansas City Star, in the heart of Big 12 country, had this exchange with Butler.
Butler: "How many [teams] did the Big 12 get in?"
Butler: "One short. I still think we are the best conference by far."
Huggins, who coached for a year at Kansas State before moving to his alma mater, was a little more diplomatic.
"When I was in [the Big 12], I probably would have said that too. But now I'm not," Huggins said. "I think you have to experience the Big East to appreciate what it is.
Tournament news conferences generally have a serious side to them but Mountaineers players spent most of their 20-minute session in a gigglefest on the podium out of earshot of the microphones.
"I want them to have fun and enjoy the experience," Huggins said. ". . . I want them to have a good time. They will be very quick to tell you now when it's time to do business, then we do business. But what's wrong with enjoying the experience and soaking it all up and having some fun? There isn't any doubt when it comes time to do business, they will do business."