March 17, 2008
The Butler Bulldogs tied a school record 29 wins this regular season, and finished ranked 10th in the Coaches Poll. They lost three games, beat power conference foes like Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Michigan and Texas Tech, and won their first conference championship since 2001.
So the disappointment was obvious this Selection Sunday when the Bulldogs were granted a No. 7 seed and a date with fellow mid major South Alabama in Birmingham.
However, while much of the Bulldog nation feels screwed over by the NCAA Selection Committee, I for one believe that it is a blessing in disguise.
The Dawgs are fired up. South Alabama is a comparable opponent, but they are no more dangerous than a 12 seed would have been in a 5 vs. 12 matchup, one that the Bulldogs faced last year against Old Dominion. There are no bad teams in the tournament, so this first round match-up versus a team out of the 2-bid Sun Belt Conference doesn't bother me much.
After getting passed USA in round one, Tennessee will likely be waiting for Butler in round 2. Tennessee is arguably the top No. 2 seed, but they didn't get a very good deal having to face Butler in the round of 32.
Butler's kryptonite is a team with a big frontcourt. Tennessee does not have that. It's tallest player is 6'9 Wayne Chism. They are athletic and fly up and down the court all game. The Vols have excellent guard play, but so do the Dawgs. Butler beat Tennessee with virtually the same team last season, however, the team in orange added a versatile forward in Iowa transfer Tyler Smith. Butler added Matt Howard, its first legitimate post threat this decade.
A lack of bigs is the reason that this is the perfect matchup for Butler against any No. 2 seed. If the Dawgs can successfully slow the tempo and not turn the ball over (two things that they are one of the best in the country at) they stand a great chance at repeating last years sweet 16 performance.
Louisville should await in the next round... A squad that will pose some problems with 7'0 David Padgette and 6'10 Derrick Character. But, with this experienced Bulldog team the sky is the limit. Five seniors with tourney experience are a plus, but Butler's new Center, freshman Matt Howard will bring the Dawgs over the top to the sweet 16 and beyond.