Bulldogs Face #22/16 Minnesota In California

TOURNAMENT TIME:  Butler will begin play in the eight-team 76 Classic when it faces #22/16 Minnesota on Thanksgiving Day in Anaheim, Calif.  The game, which is the third contest of the opening day, is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. (PT, 8:30 p.m. in Indianapolis), and will be televised nationally on ESPN2.  Both teams are off to a 3-0 start, and both are ranked in the “Top 25” of both the Associated Press (A.P.) and ESPN/USA Today national polls.  Butler is coming off back-to-back road victories at Northwestern, 67-54, and at Evansville, 64-60.  Minnesota is playing away from Williams Arena for the first time in 2009-10.  The Golden Gophers defeated Utah Valley, 76-51, in their last outing on Nov. 19.  The Bulldogs will face either UCLA or Portland in the second round of the tournament on Friday, Nov. 27.  Rounding out the tournament field are #19 Clemson, Long Beach State, Texas A & M and # 8-ranked West Virginia.  The final round of the tournament is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 29.                    

Butler has won six of its last seven games against opponents from the Big Ten.

TOURNAMENT TESTED:  The Bulldogs have won their last two in-season tournaments, including one under coach Brad Stevens.  Butler won the 2007 Great Alaska Shootout, defeating Bob Knight-coached Texas Tech in the title game.  A year earlier, the Bulldogs captured the NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden with back-to-back victories over Tennessee and Gonzaga.

POLLING DATA:  The Bulldogs continue to be ranked in the “Top 25” in both the Associated Press (A. P.) and ESPN/USA Today national polls, released on Monday (Nov. 16).  Butler remained at No. 10 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and slipped to No. 12 in the A. P. poll.  The Bulldogs were ranked in both preseason polls for the first time in school history!  Butler was ranked in the “Top 25” for 12 consecutive weeks last season, and the Bulldogs have achieved a national ranking each year since 2006-07.

TOP DOGS:  Butler continues to hold the No. 1 spot in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll.  The Bulldogs, who received the top spot in the CollegeInsider.com preseason poll on Nov. 2, received 28 first place votes in this week’s poll to finish ahead of No. 2 Gonzaga and No. 3 Old Dominion.

LAST TIME OUT:  Sophomore Shelvin Mack scored 17 points and sophomore Gordon Hayward added 15 to lift the Bulldogs at Evansville on a night when the team struggled to find its shooting touch.  Butler carried a double-figures lead into the final 1:11 of the game, but Evansville freshman Colt Ryan nailed three three-point field goals in the final 0:59 including two in a span of four seconds to close the margin.  Ryan’s final three-pointer cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 62-60 with 0:17 remaining, but free throws by Mack and Hayward in the last 14 seconds settled the final margin.

Butler has had a double-figures lead in the final minute in each game this season. 

COLD SPELL:  The Bulldogs hit just eight of 31 shots in the first 20 minutes at Evansville’s Roberts Stadium.  Things didn’t improve much in the second half, with Butler connecting on six of 19 (.316) shots!  The Bulldogs wound up shooting just 28% (14-50) for the game and just 27.8% (5-18) from beyond the three-point arc.  The team’s final shooting percentage was the lowest by a Butler squad in the past 414 games!  The last time a Butler team shot worse from the field was on December 10, 1996, when the Bulldogs shot 26.3% in a 67-55 loss in overtime at Bradley. 

DOUBLE DOWN:  Butler forward Matt Howard, the reigning Horizon League Player of the Year, recorded his eighth career double-double in the Bulldogs’ win at Evansville.  The 6-8 junior finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds against the Aces.  His rebounding total was one off of his career-high, set last year in Butler’s upset of #14 Xavier.  Howard’s effort was Butler’s second double-double this season, following teammate Gordon Hayward’s 14 points and 10 rebounds performance at Northwestern.

SHORT RANGE:  After hitting nine three-point field goals in each of the first two games this season, the Bulldogs cashed just five three-pointers at Evansville.  Sophomore Shelvin Mack nailed three of six attempts from beyond the arc, while senior Willie Veasley was successful on two of four attempts.  Butler’s remaining players were 0-8 from the three-point line.  Eight different Bulldogs have hit at least one three-point field goal this season.

Butler has won its last 16 games when hitting at least nine 3-point field goals.        

CHARITABLE EFFORT:  Butler converted a season-high 31 free throws at Evansville, including 22 after halftime.  Sophomore Gordon Hayward led the way by hitting 11 of 12 (.917) from the charity stripe, while junior Matt Howard added eight of 10.  Butler’s 44 free throw attempts were a season-high.

INJURY UPDATE:  Sophomore point-guard Shawn Vanzant was injured on a lay-up attempt early in the second half of the Northwestern game, and he was taken to a local hospital for examination.  He suffered a scratched cornea, and he remained in Evanston over night.  Vanzant was cleared to play at Evansville, and he started and played 22 minutes in the win.

AUTUMN SUCCESS:  The Bulldogs have won 23 consecutive November games, dating back to 2005.  Butler’s last November loss came at Big Ten foe Michigan, 78-74, on Nov. 26, 2005.

THE BUTLER WAY:  A newly released book by Indianapolis Star sportswriter David Woods - The Butler Way:  The Best of Butler Basketball - chronicles the Bulldogs on the hardcourt from the 1920’s to today.  The book looks at the best teams, the best players, the best coaches and the best games, with an emphasis on Butler’s recent success.  The book is available through the Butler Bookstore (317 940-9228).

BULLDOG BITS:

•Head coach Brad Stevens has posted a 4-1 record against teams from the Big Ten Conference in his two-plus seasons at Butler.  The lone setback came to nationally-ranked Ohio State at Value City Arena last year.  His wins have come over Ohio State, Michigan and Northwestern (twice).

•Sophomore Gordon Hayward is the lone Butler player to score in double-figures in all three games this season.  He also had a double-figures scoring performance in his final game of 2008-09.

•The Bulldogs are leading the Horizon League in team scoring defense at 58.7.  A year ago, Butler finished second in the league and sixth in the NCAA Division I in team scoring defense (57.9).  The Bulldogs currently are second in the league in turnover margin (+5.0) and steals (9.7).

•Sophomore Shelvin Mack, who picked up experience at point-guard as captain of the USA U19 Team last summer, currently stands second in the Horizon League in assist/turnover ratio (3.8).

•Butler head coach Brad Stevens used the first day of the fall signing period to add three players to next year’s roster.  Signing with the Bulldogs on November 11 were 6-9 Erik Fromm of Bloomington (Ind.) South High School, 6-7 Khyle Marshall of Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, Fla., and 6-1 Chrishawn Hopkins of Manual High School in Indianapolis.  Fromm averaged 10.3 points and 7.1 rebounds as a junior, while leading his high school team to a 26-0 record and a Class 4A state championship in Indiana.  Marshall averaged 26 points and 12.5 rebounds a year ago, while earning All-State honors.  Hopkins averaged 17.3 points in just seven games at Manual, after transferring from Las Vegas last year.  The three new Bulldogs complete Butler’s 2010-11 recruiting class.