Last year, Butler's run to a national championship made sense. They were a top 5 defense, they slowed the pace of the game down, they forced teams to play their game. They made it hard on them. This year? Less so. Other than being a great defensive rebounding team, they aren't a top team in any major category. They lost four of five to teams like Wright State, Wisconsin Milwaukee, Valparaiso and Youngstown State in the regular season. This wasn't a great team, and they wouldn't have been here without winning the Horizon League tourney.
But nevertheless, it's March, and they're giant-killers again. First they knock off Pitt in one of the most bizarre endings you'll ever see, now they take out the Badgers. It was Butler's defense again that dashed the surprisingly upbeat hopes of Wisconsin.
Wisconsin is one of the most offensively efficient teams in the country, but they're surprisingly not that great a shooting team. Tonight they were horrid, as the Bulldogs held them to 37% on twos and 24% on threes. Their biggest strength is the free throw line, where they're one of the best college basketball teams ever. But they have troubles getting there, and they persisted tonight as Butler shot five more freebies (and they're not very good at getting to the line either). Worse, when they got there, they missed SIX of them, and it turned out to be a huge difference in the final margin.
Matt Howard seems to be very good at winning basketball games. Howard piled up 20 points and 12 rebounds in another workmanlike performance. Shelvin Mack didn't have a great shooting night, but he did have 13 points and nailed the huge jumper to stave off a furious Wisconsin rally late. Jordan Taylor scored 22 points for the Badgers, but needed 6 of 19 shooting to get there and got little offensive help from his teammates.
Butler moves onto face Florida, who beat BYU in overtime (check out SBN Bay Area's recap of the Gators-Cougars game here).