SALT LAKE CITY — In a strange coincidence, Gordon Hayward was in EnergySolutions Arena for the second straight year while celebrating his Butler Bulldogs' stunning advancement to the Final Four.
Last year, Hayward was in the building as a college sophomore with his fellow Bulldogs when they beat Kansas State to advance.
On Saturday, Hayward was in the building as an NBA rookie watching his former Bulldogs on a TV in the locker room when they beat Florida to move on.
The Butler-Florida overtime thriller took place during Hayward's warm-up session, but he worked it out to be able to catch the end.
"I'm really excited for those guys," Hayward said of his former teammates. "I'm going to maybe call them or text them afterwards."
Making Butler's victory all the sweeter for Hayward?
"Raja (Bell) owes me a hundred dollars, so that's nice," he said, smiling. "I'm really excited for those guys."
Almost on cue, Bell walked by Hayward en route to the court and briefly interrupted the interview to voice his displeasure with the way the game and an apparent side wager turned out.
But Hayward didn't stop smiling.
The recently turned 21-year-old also added that he doesn't regret turning pro after his sensational sophomore season and giving up the chance at another deep NCAA Tournament run as a would-be junior.
He did admit, however, that a part of him wonders about that.
"But I'm really happy with where I'm at right now," said Hayward, who has averaged 4.0 points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.9 assists in his first year of pro action. "You've always got to miss where you came from. I still miss high school games, but I'm just real excited for those guys."
Hayward isn't nearly as surprised as many observers that the Indianapolis school is returning to the Final Four — this time in Houston.
"At the beginning of the season, I knew they had potential. They went through those struggles, and I think everyone thought, 'Hey, what's going on? You guys need to get together,'" Hayward said. "I talked to some of those guys and they've come together. They've got the players and anything can happen."
The No. 8-seeded Butler's 13-game winning streak and tourney wins over top-seeded Pittsburgh and No. 2 seed Florida have proven that.
"They've come together at the end," Hayward added, "right at the right time."
The nostalgic Hayward also admitted that the college action gets him all geeked to get on the court.
"Watching the March Madness gets you pumped up," he said. "You just want to go out there and play. It gets you ready to go — excited."
STARTING 12?: The Jazz seemed to have taken the concept of a starting rotation literally this season.
Because of injuries, the big mid-season trade and an adjustment a few weeks ago, the Jazz have used 16 different starting lineups in 74 games this season.
And Utah has had a dozen different players take to the court in the starting lineup.
That inconsistency has certainly played a factor in 36-38 Utah's struggles.
"Because of injuries, it's difficult," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "If you're moving around just because of matchups, it's not as bad."
Nine of the lineups have gone winless (0-13), including the current one consisting of Earl Watson, Raja Bell, C.J. Miles, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. That group has gone 0-2.
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