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March 16, 2010
Power rankings: WVU's Butler serves notice
Trying to stop him is much more difficult.
Butler continued his season-long penchant for coming through in the clutch last week by making two game-winning baskets to help West Virginia win its first Big East tournament title. Butler's remarkable run through the Big East tournament makes him the new No. 1 power forward in the Rivals.com College Basketball Power Rankings, which measure the nation's top performers at each position.
Labeling Butler as a power forward admittedly is a bit of a stretch since he has been more of a swingman for the Mountaineers this season, but we listed him as a power forward at the start of the season and decided not to switch anyone's positions in midseason for the purposes of these rankings.
While assigning Butler to a position is a matter of debate, there's no argument that he ranks among the nation's top players.
Butler's big week started Thursday when he banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give West Virginia a 54-51 victory over Cincinnati.
"Honestly, I was supposed to just catch the ball and get a couple of dribbles inside the 3-point line," Butler said. "When I got the ball, [Cincinnati's Lance Stephenson] kind of pressed up on me. So I kind of lost my balance, and by the time I squared up, I only had time to take one dribble instead of two or three. And when I took one dribble, I put it up. It felt good. I saw it hit the glass, I said, 'Oh, it's fine.' It fell right in there. I said, 'All right, it went in. Thank God.' "
Butler followed that up with 24 points and seven rebounds Friday in a 53-51 semifinal victory over Notre Dame. In Saturday's championship game, Butler scored the winning basket with 4.2 seconds left as West Virginia outlasted Georgetown 60-58.
"We ran the same play that we set up for the Cincinnati game," Butler said. "They kind of overplayed one side and went the other way. I came up to the top of the key, and I had to come get the ball and they kind of switched. I think [Georgetown center Greg] Monroe was on me. And I think he had a feeling I was going to shoot a '3.' I had a little hesitation, went around him and [Georgetown guard Austin] Freeman stepped up, and I had a little hop step and scooped the layup off the glass and it fell."
Butler needed to have a special week to take over the top spot in the power rankings from Texas' Damion James, who was quite remarkable in his own right. James averaged 23 points and 14 rebounds in two Big 12 tournament games.
That represented the only change atop the power rankings.
Kentucky point guard John Wall, Oklahoma State shooting guard James Anderson, Ohio State small forward Evan Turner, Monroe and Kansas coach Bill Self remained atop their respective positions. Wall also maintained his status as the nation's top freshman.
The power rankings will take a break for the NCAA tournament. We will release our final edition of the rankings after the Final Four.
Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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