HOUSTON -- Ronald Nored doesn’t wow you with dazzling scoring performances -- he has only scored in double figures five times this season -- and he typically doesn’t grab the same type of attention as Butler teammates Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack.

 

What the junior guard does do, however, is find a way to run the Bulldogs’ offense effectively when he comes into a game off the bench.

“I try to do whatever I can to help our team win games,” Nored said. “Our coaches do a great job of preparing us for every game and I’ve been able to use that preparation to our advantage.”

It has certainly worked. Nored is only dropping in 5.3 points per game but he has dished out 84 assists and has played a vital role in bringing the Bulldogs (27-9) to the Final Four for a second consecutive season.

Butler battles Virginia Commonwealth (28-11) at 6 p.m. ET in the first national semifinal Saturday night at Reliant Stadium.

Howard, a senior forward and a hero for Butler throughout this tournament run, credits Nored for having a major impact on the team’s surge to Texas.

“Ron really facilitates everything for us,” Howard said. “He understands where guys are and knows our offense. He knows everyone’s strengths and has been a big part of our success.”

Nored scored seven points and pulled down six rebounds in the national final against Duke last season.

Butler lost the game in gut-wrenching fashion when Gordon Heyward’s desperation 3-point attempt in the final frantic seconds of the riveting title showdown bounced off the rim, leaving the Bulldogs on the wrong end of a 61-59 score.

A year later, the Bulldogs get a shot at redemption and Nored is thrilled about the opportunity.

“You dream about going to the Final Four, but it doesn’t happen for a lot of people,” Nored said. “Even though we went last year, it sure doesn’t feel like old habit. We have tried to take what we learned last year and apply it to this year. We’ve just tried to do everything to return to the Final Four. It feels good to be back.”

Nored wasn’t even expected to come to Butler. He had signed with Western Kentucky out of Homewood High School in Alabama, but was granted a release when coach Darrin Horn left to take the head job at South Carolina.

Butler's Journey to the Final Four

HOW THEY GOT HERE: No. 8 Butler beat No. 9 Old Dominion 60-58; No. 1 Pittsburgh 71-70; No. 4 Wisconsin 61-54; No. 2 Florida 74-71, OT.

STAR: It's a very close call between Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack as to who is most important, but Howard gets it in a photo finish. Howard, a 6-foot-8 senior forward averaged 16.7 points and 7.7 rebounds this season, shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from 3-point range. And he makes big plays when the Bulldogs need it most.

COACH: Brad Stevens is a Final Four veteran at the age of 34. He has taken the Bulldogs to consecutive Final Four appearances and is already nine wins ahead of the previous record for best four-year start by a coach with a 116-24 mark.

KEY POINT: The Bulldogs don't just have experience -- they have Final Four experience. Four key players are back from the team that lost to Duke in last year's national championship game. Three of their four wins have been by three points or less, and they went overtime to beat Florida in the regional final.

Nored contacted Butler about coming to play college basketball and head coach Brad Stevens made a trip to Birmingham to talk with the talented prep star, who led his team to the 6A state championship game in 2008.

“I had not seen him play live all year, but I had seen him play the summer before,” Stevens said. “The reason we didn’t recruit him before with an offer was because we had Zach (Hahn) and Shawn (Vanzant) coming back. Once we found out they were both very good off the ball, we decided to bring in a point guard. We were very fortunate that Ron had an interest in Butler.”

One moment sold Stevens on offering Nored a scholarship.

“I go to sit down with him and say to him that we have two young guards, and if you aren’t going to play 12 to 15 minutes a game, you are going to redshirt. That’s got to be the deal. It’s a risky thing to say because in this day and age, redshirt is like a bad word, but it’s a great thing,” Stevens said. “He looked at me and said he was coming to Butler. I knew right there that he wasn’t going to redshirt.”

Nored started as a freshman and was named the co-defensive player of the year in the Horizon League last season.

But he was asked to come off the bench late this season after starting 23 games and it is a role he has embraced.

“I enjoy it,” Nored said. “I know playing a role is key to having success and I’ve just tried to find different ways to contribute, whether it’s scoring, making plays or giving a good effort on defense.”

The fact that Nored hasn’t complained about his role speaks volumes about him as a person and player. It’s also the reason Butler will have a shot to compete for a national championship this weekend.

“Ron’s value to the program goes beyond basketball,” Stevens said. “He [handles] the ball better this year and has always been a great defender. His willingness to come off the bench this year is maybe the most critical move and most unselfish move that I have been a part of at Butler.”