Butler Faces Key Test At Massachusetts
FINAL WEEK: Butler begins its final week of regular season play when it makes its first visit to Massachusetts for a key Atlantic 10 Conference game on Thursday, March 7. The two teams will meet at 7 p.m. in the Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass., and the game will be televised on the NBC Sports Network. Butler and Massachusetts both are in a five-team scramble for a "Top 4" finish in the conference regular season standings and a first round bye in the Atlantic 10 Conference Men's Basketball Championship, March 14-17. The Bulldogs (22-7, 9-5 A-10), coming off back-to-back losses to the top two teams in the A-10 standings, would claim one of those first round byes with wins at Massachusetts and over Xavier at home in the regular season finale on March 9. Massachusetts (18-9, 8-6 A-10) puts itself in the picture for a bye if it wins its final two games against Butler and Rhode Island. La Salle (10-4 A-10), Temple (9-5 A-10) and Xavier (8-6 A-10) also have a shot at a first round bye. Saint Louis (12-2 A-10), currently sitting atop the A-10 standings, and VCU (11-3 A-10), currently second, already have clinched a first round bye.
UMass is Butler's third consecutive opponent with at least 18 wins.
CHALLENGING SLATE: Butler's final four regular season games might be the toughest closing stretch of any team in the Atlantic 10 Conference. The Bulldogs have faced league-leading Saint Louis and second place VCU in the past two games, and both of those teams are currently ranked in the "Top 25" of both the A.P. Poll and the USA Today Coaches Poll. This week, Butler visits Massachusetts, where the Minutemen stand 10-3 on the year, before hosting Xavier, a team that has already beaten the Bulldogs. Butler's final four opponents have combined for 80 wins heading into this week's action.
POLLING DATA: Butler was bounced from the "Top 25" of both the Associated Press and USA Today national basketball polls, following it's loss at VCU. The Bulldogs continue to receive votes in both of the national polls. Butler's victory over No. 1 Indiana on Dec. 15 vaulted the Bulldogs into the "Top 25" of both national polls for the first time since November of 2010. The Bulldogs joined the A.P. "Top 25" at No. 19 and the Coaches Poll at No. 25.
Butler was ranked in the national "Top 25" for eleven consecutive weeks.
LAST OUTING: Host VCU used a full-court pressure defense and a lethal long-range shooting attack to race past Butler, 84-52, in a nationally-televised Atlantic 10 Conference game. The Rams, playing in front of a raucous, sellout crowd at the Siegel Center, forced Butler into a season-high 23 turnovers and compiled a sizeable, 34-2, advantage in points off turnovers. VCU also nailed 10 three-point field goals and out-scored the Bulldogs, 30-9, from beyond the three-point arc. The loss was Butler's biggest margin of defeat since January of 1994, when the Bulldogs fell at #4 North Carolina, 104-64.
FORWARD LOOK: Sophomore Roosevelt Jones and junior Khyle Marshall were the lone two Bulldogs to score in double-figures in Butler's loss to VCU. The two forwards combined for 27 points, more than half of the entire team total. Jones led the Bulldogs with 14 points, while Marshall added 13. The last time Jones topped the Bulldogs in scoring was on Jan. 19, when Butler knocked off Gonzaga, the current No. 1-ranked team. Jones and Marshall combined to hit 11 of 19 (57.9%) shots, while the rest of the team managed just nine of 30 (30%) from the field.
STREAK SNAPPED: Senior Rotnei Clarke scored five points at VCU, snapping a streak of nine consecutive games in which he had scored in double-figures. The nine straight games started with his return from a neck injury that sidelined him for three-and-a-half games in January. Clarke has scored in double-figures in 21 of his 26 games this season, and he's had at least a share of Butler's scoring lead in 18 of those contests. The Arkansas transfer has scored 20 or more points nine times this year, including a season-high 28 points at Saint Joseph's, and 21 times during his collegiate career.
Butler is 8-1 when Rotnei Clarke scores 20 or more points.
CHART CLIMBING: Senior Andrew Smith is 12 rebounds shy of becoming the 11th Butler player to record 1,000 career points and 600 career rebounds. Smith enters the final week of regular season play with 1,059 career points and 588 career rebounds. The last Butler player to reach the 1,000 points/600 rebounds milestone was Matt Howard (2007-11), who finished his career with 1,939 points and 884 rebounds. Smith and Howard were teammates for two seasons, helping Butler to back-to-back Final Four appearances.
QUICK START: Butler head coach Brad Stevens stands in a tie with Everett Case (North Carolina State, 1947-52) for second place on the NCAA Division I list for Best Career Coaching Starts By Wins, 6 Seasons. The Bulldogs' coach, who boasts a 161-47 record, trails current leader Jamie Dixon (Pittsburgh, 2004-09) by two wins. Stevens holds the NCAA three-year (89), four-year (117) and five-year (139) records, and he's second on the two-year (56) list.
TOP THREE: Butler head coach Brad Stevens ranks third among active Division I coaches in career winning percentage with a .774 mark. Only Roy Williams of North Carolina and Mark Few of Gonzaga have a higher career winning percentage.
POPULAR ATTRACTION: Butler's game against VCU was the Bulldogs' seventh consecutive Atlantic 10 Conference road sellout. Butler has played in front of capacity crowds (home and away) in 11 of the past 15 contests and in 15 total games this season. Butler's final game against Xavier is already sold out, which sets a Butler record for most home sellouts (5) in a single season.
TWENTY WINS: The 2012-13 Bulldogs became the 19th Butler team to record 20 victories in a season with their win at George Washington on Feb. 9. Butler has won at least 20 games in eight consecutive seasons and in 15 of the past 17 campaigns. This year's team is tied for 12th on Butler's single season wins chart with 22 victories.
NAISMITH FINALIST: Senior Rotnei Clarke has been named one of the Top 30 Candidates for the 2013 Naismith Men's College Player of the Year Award. The 6-0 guard, who leads the Bulldogs in scoring, was among the finalists selected by the Atlanta Tipoff Club's Board of Selectors. The winner of this year's Naismith award will be announced on April 7 in Atlanta.
•Seniors Andrew Smith, Chase Stigall and Emerson Kampen stand fourth on Butler's list for Most Senior Class Wins with a four-year record of 105-37.
•Andrew Smith became the 34th Butler player to score 1,000 career points in the Bulldogs' victory over Rhode Island. He currently stands 31st on Butler's all-time scoring list with 1,059 career points.
•Andrew Smith ranks 11th in the A-10 in field goal percentage (.522). Smith's career shooting percentage of .539 ranks him 10th all-time at Butler.
•Andrew Smith has tied Thomas Jackson and Rylan Hainje (both 1998-2002) and Darnell Archey (1999-2003) for sixth place on Butler's all-time list for games played with 127. Joel Cornette (1999-2003) stands fifth with 128.
•Senior Rotnei Clarke ranks fourth in the Atlantic 10 Conference in scoring (16.5).
•Rotnei Clarke stands second in the A-10 and seventh in the NCAA Division I in three-point field goals made per game (3.54). Clarke has had at least four three-pointers in a game 14 times this season.
•Rotnei Clarke has hit a 3-point field goal in each game that he's played this season.
•Rotnei Clarke ranks fifth in the A-10 and 23rd in Division I in three-point field goal percentage (.428).
•Rotnei Clarke currently ranks third in the A-10 in free throw shooting (.881). Clarke has made his last 15 free throw attempts.
•Rotnei Clarke ranks eighth on Butler's single season list for three-point field goals with 92. A. J. Graves (2007-08) is seventh with 95, while Bruce Horan (2003-04) is sixth with 96.
•Butler is 14-1 this season when junior Khyle Marshall scores in double-figures.
•Khyle Marshall ranks seventh in the A-10 in field goal percentage (.550).
•Sophomore Roosevelt Jones shared Butler's lead in assists (2) at VCU. It was the 18th time this season that he's had at least a share of the team lead in assists.
•Sophomore Kameron Woods came off the bench with a game-high 10 rebounds at VCU. It was the sixth time in his Butler career that he's had at least 10 rebounds in a game.
•Freshman Kellen Dunham ranks fourth in the A-10 free throw shooting (.872).
•Freshman Devontae Morgan grabbed a career-high three rebounds in eight minutes of action at VCU.
•Butler is ranked first in the Atlantic 10 Conference and 10th in the NCAA Division I in team rebounding margin (+7.6). The Bulldogs have out-rebounded 12 of their last 13 opponents and 25 foes on the season.
•Butler is 60-7 under head coach Brad Stevens when hitting at least nine three-point field goals in a game.
•Butler, at full strength, has only lost to two teams (Saint Louis and VCU) since the Maui Invitational. Leading scorer Rotnei Clarke missed Butler's game at La Salle, while second-leading scorer Andrew Smith missed the Charlotte contest.
•The Bulldogs need one victory to move into a tie for tenth place on Butler's single season chart for wins.
•Butler has beaten the top two teams in this week's national polls (#1 Gonzaga and #2 Indiana). The Bulldogs also have victories over current #15/17 Marquette and former #9 (now #26/29) North Carolina this season.