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February 24, 2012

Not all Butler late-season “surges” are created equal

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 10:00 am

Tonight Butler will play at Valparaiso, making those two programs the first two Tuesday Truths teams to wrap up their 2012 conference seasons. Task-oriented Bulldogs and Crusaders, I salute you!

We haven’t heard much about Brad Stevens‘ team this year. They currently sit at 18-12 overall, and tied for second in the Horizon with Cleveland State, two games in back of Valpo. The Crusaders have already locked up the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, which under the Horizon’s notably No. 1-seed-friendly set-up means Bryce Drew‘s team not only gets waved through all the way to the semifinals but will also be hosting the affair in question (from the quarterfinals on) on their home floor.

But Butler has now won four straight games, and so you’ve probably heard some “here we go again” chatter surrounding this team. We all remember last year, when Stevens’ men turned it on in February and reeled off 14 straight wins on their way to a national championship game loss to Connecticut in Houston. Is something similar in the works this year in Indy?

Probably not. At the risk of being tautological, the thing I liked about last year’s late-season surge was that last year’s team was better. Last year’s team had Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack. Last year’s team outscored the Horizon by a very respectable 0.09 points per trip.

This year’s team, conversely, will end the year outscoring a slightly weaker Horizon League by a significantly smaller margin. Even during this current four-game surgette, the Bulldogs are still mustering just 1.01 points per trip, and their three-point shooting’s actually been worse (23 percent) than what we’ve seen from this notably inaccurate group over the course of the Horizon season (26 percent). The thought coming into this year was that Chrishawn Hopkins or Chase Stigall or both would be able to provide the occasional three (I thought so too), but that hasn’t happened.

Then again, who knows. The Horizon isn’t exactly brimming with swaggering behemoths this season. The last time we saw Valpo they were requiring an extra five-minute session simply to put away Loyola at home. It’s not inconceivable that the Bulldogs could win a conference tournament played on Valparaiso’s home floor, just as last year they won a conference tournament played on Milwaukee‘s home floor. If so, NCAA tournament opponents would be forgiven if they freaked out at the very sight of the word “BUTLER” on the opposing team’s jerseys.

BONUS Garanimals note! Roughly 98 percent of the above verbiage can be lifted whole and placed on another weak-on-offense team with little loss of validity regarding any “surge” or “rolling” talk you may hear there.

UPDATE! First “Tuesday Truths teams to wrap up their 2012 conference seasons”? Whoever heard of such a thing? Well, whoever it was needs to be told about Pepperdine, which finished their 2012 West Coast season last night in style, winning at Santa Clara 63-57. My apologies to the Waves, who surely exhibited laudable pep and vim in finishing their league business by late on the evening of February 23.

Twitter: @JohnGasaway. Contact: here.

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