INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Butler and Purdue celebrated their sweet homecomings by getting right back to work Monday.
With both teams winning twice in Milwaukee over the weekend, they are now off to different places to face the top seeds in their respective regionals.
Butler plays North Carolina on Thursday in Memphis, part of a South Regional that includes Kentucky and UCLA as well. The Bulldogs feel they belong in this field every bit as much as college basketball’s blue bloods, and apparently so do their fans.
“I think you’ve achieved a measure of success when you reach the Sweet 16 and you roll back to campus and your mascot greets you,” coach Chris Holtmann said before practice. “It was great. It was great to see him.”
Not long ago, two NCAA Tournament wins for Butler (25-8) would lead to a midnight celebration with hundreds or thousands of fans showing up at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
But five Sweet 16 appearances in 14 years have seemingly changed the mentality on campus. Butler is trying to become the third team in three years to sweep the previous season’s two national finalists. It beat defending champion Villanova twice during the regular season and now gets North Carolina, which lost to the Wildcats in the 2016 title game.
At Purdue, the reaction was mostly the same even though the school reached the regional semifinals for the first time since 2010 . With students on spring break, there was no major celebration on campus — and that’s just how the Boilermakers (27-7) wanted it. They’ve spent the last two days working out at Mackey Arena.
“This team has done a great job all year of moving on to the next game,” coach Matt Painter said.
The next game will be Purdue’s toughest all season: against top-seeded Kansas in Kansas City, Missouri, on Thursday. The winner will face either Big Ten Tournament champion Michigan or third-seeded Oregon.
But the two Indiana schools still playing do have some high-power support on their side.
“Congrats @BoilerBall & @ButlerMBB on making the Sweet 16!” Vice President Mike Pence posted Sunday on Twitter. “Good luck the rest of the way in @marchmadness!”