Men's Basketball

Mack's dream season reaches its peak

INDIANAPOLIS — First of all, don't worry. Shelvin Mack is fine.

The former Bryan Station star will be in the starting lineup Monday night when his Butler Bulldogs play favored Duke for the national championship at Lucas Oil Stadium.

But Saturday night, in the biggest half of the biggest game of his young life, Mack was, well, not so good.

The trouble started Thursday night when the 6-foot-3 sophomore said he suffered food poisoning. The ensuing nausea that carried into Friday caused him to lose fluids. That led to the cramping that curtailed his play to just eight minutes in the second half on Saturday.

"I felt like I was going to start cramping up," Mack said Sunday. "I knew I wouldn't be able to go 100 percent and I didn't want to (short-change) my teammates."

So after a first half in which Mack's 12 points combined with teammate Gordon Hayward's 13 to produced 25 of Butler's 28 points, Mack played just eight second-half minutes.

How difficult was it for Mack to sit and watch?

"It was very difficult," he said Sunday. "Waiting your whole life to have an opportunity like that and then have some cramps and sickness holding you back."

All's well that ends well, however. Mack was able to re-enter the game in the final minute, and the Bulldogs held off Michigan State 52-50 to reach Monday's finals.

The sophomore was expected to practice with the Bulldogs on Sunday.

"I think if we were able to get it done, it would shock some people who don't follow college basketball," said Mack. "Not the coaches. I'm pretty sure they know what we can do."

Indeed, Saturday's win was the 25th straight for a Butler team that has not lost since Dec. 22 at UAB.

"I remember the long plane ride back from Alabama," Mack said. "It was a pretty sour feeling for a couple of days."

The feeling this week has been, well, sweet. All of Indianapolis has rallied around the Bulldogs. The Butler Buzz, they're calling it.

"I went to get gas a couple of nights ago in this place I always go to and the dude in there never notices me," Mack said. "This time he said, 'Hey, Mr. Mack.' It was kind of weird."

Others have noticed. For the third straight day, Mack got more of the same questions from the media. Why didn't you go to Kentucky? (UK offered only after he committed to Butler.) Has he seen the movie Hoosiers yet? (Not yet.) What's the Butler way? ("We over me," said Mack.)

And is Butler Coach Brad Stevens always that calm?

"One time he was trying to get us fired up and he cracked a clipboard and part of it hit Gordon Hayward in the leg," Mack said. "Coach stopped and apologized."

The Bulldogs make no apologies for being here. Their path to Monday includes wins over Syracuse, Kansas State and Michigan State. Their roster includes a pair of players in Hayward and Mack, who played on the United States Under-19 team in the world championships last summer.

Another player on that U-19 team, Kentucky's Darius Miller, Mack's good friend from the commonwealth, is expected to attend Monday night on Mack's ticket.

"I never thought I'd have a year like this," Mack said Sunday. "I've been to New Zealand (for the worlds), Italy (on a tour with Butler) and now the Final Four."

And on to Monday night.