Butler, Kansas St. ready to battle

Everybody gets it. It's no longer fair or accurate to pat Butler on the head and portray the Bulldogs as that scrappy, plucky, mid-major underdog with more heart than hops and a dream that won't die.

It's hard for this story not to feel a little warm 'n fuzzy. The team that practices in the gym where they shot Hoosiers is one win from playing in the Final Four. In downtown Indianapolis, no less, only a few short miles from home.

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Kansas State's Jacob Pullen nailed a pair of three-pointers in the second OT of a 101-96 win over Xavier on Thursday.

Coming off a win over Syracuse, the fifth-seeded Bulldogs (31-4) put their 23-game winning streak on the line against No. 2 Kansas State today in the West Regional final in Salt Lake City.

"When we sat down and made goals and thought about the season, we said, 'Why not shoot for the ultimate goal?' " forward Matt Howard said.

Though this is their first trip this far in the NCAA tournament, the Bulldogs are quick, can shoot and play good defense, as they proved in their 63-59 win over top-seeded Syracuse. The prevailing wisdom before that game was that the team that shoots 34 percent from three-point range would have to be even better to stay on the court with the Big East regular-season champions.

They went 6 for 24 from beyond the arc and, after a nicely played first half, struggled in the second and even fell behind by four points late.

They answered with an 11-0 run to take control - highlighted by Willie Veasley's three-pointer from the corner that circled the rim, caromed high off the backboard, then finally dropped clean through the net.

Count Kansas State coach Frank Martin among the believers.

"Whether your name is Butler, UCLA, Kentucky, whoever, if you're playing in the Elite Eight game, you're a very good basketball team," he said. "You shouldn't be concerned about appearance. You should be concerned about the team."

Regardless of the opponent, the Wildcats (29-7) would be in for a challenge, needing to gear back up after a double-overtime, 101-96 victory over Xavier in one of the best games in tournament history.

Almost to a man, the K-State players admitted they got very little sleep after the game. "I just laid there staring at the wall," said Jacob Pullen, whose two three-pointers and two free throws helped put the game away in the second OT.

The bigger goal for both programs, however, is not to treat this like it's the only chance they'll get.