Butler Meets Top-Seed Valparaiso
MOVING FORWARD: Butler has played Valparaiso more than 100 times on a basketball court, but has never faced the Crusaders in the Horizon League Men's Basketball Championship. That will change on Saturday, March 3, when the two long-time foes meet in the semifinals of the league tournament at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The 8:30 p.m. (ET) contest will be televised on ESPNU. Butler (20-13) reached the semifinals for the seventh consecutive year with a convincing 71-49 victory over Milwaukee in the second round on Friday (March 2). The Bulldogs, who tied with Detroit and Milwaukee for third place in the regular season league standings, have won their first two league tournament games by an average of 20 points! Top-seeded Valparaiso, the league regular season champ, received a bye to the semifinals and earned the right to host the league tournament second round and semifinals. The Crusaders (21-10) defeated Butler twice during the regular season, including a 71-59 decision at the Athletics-Recreation Center just eight days ago. Butler missed its first 12 shots in that game and fell behind, 16-2, in the first nine minutes of the contest. Valparaiso is playing in the league semifinals for the second straight year and for the third time in its five seasons in the league.
Butler is playing in the league tournament semifinals for the 14th time in 16 years.
LEAGUE TOURNAMENT: Butler became the first lower seed to advance in the 2012 Horizon League Men's Basketball Championship with its victory over No. 4 Milwaukee. No. 3 Detroit will meet No. 2 Cleveland State and No. 5 Butler will play No. 1 Valparaiso in the league semifinals on Saturday, March 3. The league championship game will be played on Tuesday, March 6, at the site of the highest remaining seed following the semifinals. The league tournament champion receives an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
TWENTY SOMETHING: Butler's victory over Milwaukee gave the Bulldogs 20 wins for the seventh consecutive season and for the 14th time in the past 16 campaigns. It also matched the Horizon League record for most consecutive 20-win seasons, set by the Bulldogs from 1996 to 2003. The Bulldogs are the only team in Horizon League history to record five or more consecutive 20-win seasons and they've done it twice (1996-2003 and 2006-2012).
SECOND ROUND: The Bulldogs held Milwaukee without a field goal for the first six minutes of the game and to just six field goals in the first half, while edging out to a 22-18 halftime lead. Butler then hit the Panthers with a 9-0 run to open the second half, and Milwaukee never got closer than seven points the rest of the game. The Bulldogs, who never trailed in the contest, stretched their lead to as many as 25 points late in the second half, behind a sizzling shooting performance. Butler hit 18 of 29 (62.1%) shots in the final 20 minutes and shot 50% (29-58) for the game. It was Butler's second consecutive 50% shooting performance, matching the Bulldogs' total for the first 31 games this season.
Butler is shooting 51.5% in this year's Horizon League Tournament.
DOUBLE TIME: Sophomore Khyle Marshall shared the team scoring lead against Milwaukee with 17 points, and he led all players in the contest with 10 rebounds. It was his second double-double of the season and the third of his career. Marshall scored 11 of his points in the second half, when the Bulldogs pulled away in the contest. The 6-6 forward has scored in double-figures in five of Butler's last seven games, and he's tallied 17 points in two of the past three outings.
Khyle Marshall has averaged 12.3 point in Butler's last seven games.
BEST HELPER: Senior Ronald Nored ran his string of games with six or more assists to six in a row with a game-high six assists against Milwaukee. That effort helped him set a Butler single season record for assists with 176, four ahead of former record-holder Mike Green (2007-08). Nored also boosted his career total for assists to 480. He stands second on Butler's all-time assist chart, nine ahead of Tim Bowen, 1989-93, in third place. Earlier this season, Nored became just the second player in Butler basketball history (Thomas Jackson, 1998-2002, is the other) to record 400 career points, 400 career rebounds and 400 career assists.
Ronald Nored has had career-highs for points (18), rebounds (11) and assists (10) since mid-December.
TOURNAMENT READY: Freshman Roosevelt Jones (right) is playing in his first Horizon League Men's Basketball Championship, but he's performed like a seasoned veteran. The 6-4 forward is the lone Butler player to score in double-figures in each of the Bulldogs' first two tournament contests. He shared the team lead in scoring against Milwaukee with 17 points on eight of 11 shooting from the field and one of two from the free throw line. He added four rebounds, one assist, one blocked shot and two steals in 28 minutes of action. Jones had 11 points and a career-high five assists in Butler's opening round victory over Wright State.
DOUBLES RECORD: Roosevelt Jones, who posted double-figures totals for both points and rebounds in two of the Bulldogs' final three regular season games, set a Butler record this season for most double-doubles by a freshman. Jones has four double-doubles on the year, breaking the mark he shared with current NBA player Gordon Hayward (2008-09) and teammate Kameron Woods.
SCORING LIFT: Junior Andrew Smith (top) is the lone Butler player averaging in double-figures (11.1 ppg) for the year. But over the past 10 games, Butler has four players average double-figures - Smith (12.8), Khyle Marshall (11.8), Roosevelt Jones (11.3) and Chrishawn Hopkins (10.3).
SENIOR MOMENT: Butler seniors Ronald Nored and Garrett Butcher rank third on the Bulldogs' all-time list for senior class wins with a 107-33 record during their four seasons. The two have helped Butler to three Horizon League regular season championships, two league tournament titles and three consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament, including back-to-back appearances in the national title game.
SMART CHOICE: Senior Ronald Nored, who's combined success on the basketball court with excellence in the classroom, was named second team on the 2012 Capital One Academic All-America Team. The honor student majoring in Early Childhood/Middle Childhood Education is the sixth Butler player to earn Academic All-America recognition and the fifth since 2007. Butler has had one or more players named to the Academic All-America Team in each of the past six seasons, including three-time Academic All-American and 2011 Academic All-American of the Year Matt Howard.
ALL-LEAGUE: Senior Ronald Nored and freshman Roosevelt Jones were recognized on the 2011-12 Horizon League Men's Basketball All-League Team. Nored was named second team All-League, while Jones was chosen the league's All-Newcomer Team. Butler has had a player named first or second team All-League for 14 consecutive years.
FIRST DEFENSE: Butler's Ronald Nored was named Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year for the second time in his career. Nored, who was named league Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2009-10, was selected to the league's All-Defensive Team for the third consecutive year.
TOP DRAW: The Bulldogs continued to be a popular foe at venues around the Horizon League this season. The Butler game drew the largest single crowd at six of the nine remaining Horizon League schools, and the Bulldogs ranked in the top two single game attendance totals at all nine league opponents. The Butler game out-drew the average home attendance of all nine league foes. Butler led the league in home attendance with an average of 7,202, including two sellout crowds of 10,000.
LEADING MAN: Brad Stevens has led the Bulldogs to five 20-win seasons, matching former coach (and current Athletic Director) Barry Collier for the most by a Butler coach.
QUICK START: Butler head coach Brad Stevens has moved into a tie for the top spot on the NCAA Division I list for Best Career Coaching Starts By Wins, 5 Seasons. The Bulldogs' coach, who boasts a 137-38 record, tied former five-year leader, Everett Case of North Carolina State (1947-51). Stevens holds the NCAA three-year (89) and four-year (117) records, and he's second on the two-year (56) list.
•The Bulldogs are tied for 16th place on Butler's all-time list for single season victories with 20. A 21st win would move this year's team into a tie for 15th place on the all-time list.
•Ronald Nored is tied for second with Zach Hahn (2007-11) on Butler's all-time list for games played with 139. Matt Howard (2007-11) owns Butler's all-time record (141).
•Ronald Nored stands second on Butler's all-time list for steals (201), six behind career-leader Thomas Jackson (207 from 1998-2002).
•Ronald Nored ranks third in the Horizon League in steals (1.8).
•Ronald Nored ranks second in the Horizon League in assists (5.3) and in assist/turnover ratio (1.9). Nored had 47 assists (7.8) in Butler's last six games.
•Ronald Nored was the only Butler player to score in double-figures in both games against Valparaiso this season. He had 17 points at Butler and 11 at Valparaiso.
•Junior Andrew Smith has shot .592 from the field, .462 from beyond the three-point arc and averaged 12.7 points in Butler's 20 wins this season.
•Andrew Smith ranks sixth in the Horizon League in field goal shooting (.528).
•Andrew Smith has scored in double-figures in eight of Butler's last 10 contests.
•Sophomore Khyle Marshall continues to lead the Bulldogs in field goal shooting (.570). He's third in the Horizon League.
•Khyle Marshall is shooting 62.1% (36-58) from the field over the past eight contests.
•Khyle Marshall came off the bench and scored a team-high 17 points when the Bulldogs visited Valparaiso a week ago.
•Sophomore Erik Fromm grabbed a career-high seven rebounds in Butler's second round tournament win over Milwaukee.
•Sophomore Chrishawn Hopkins has scored in double-figures in seven of Butler's last 11 games.
•Freshman Roosevelt Jones leads the Bulldogs and ranks eighth in the Horizon League in rebounding (6.2).
•Roosevelt Jones ranks fourth in the Horizon League in offensive rebounds (2.6).
•Freshman Kameron Woods had 10 points and 11 rebounds as a starter against Valparaiso in the first meeting this season.
•Kameron Woods ranks seventh in the Horizon League in blocked shots (1.2).
•Butler is 9-1 under head coach Brad Stevens in Horizon League Tournament action. The Bulldogs have won their last six Horizon League Tournament games under Stevens. Butler is 4-0 in the league semifinals under the fifth-year coach.
(Photos by John Fetcho)