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Matt Norlander

Welcome to The Dance, Butler Bulldogs

The Dagger

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Earlier this season I wrote how I thought Butler just wasn't all that good.

As usual — all together now! — I'm an idiot.

Since I wrote that post the Bulldogs won 13 in a row. Oh, and they had won seven straight before that. Nobody enters the NCAA tournament with a longer winning streak than this team. It's possible Butler is very, very good. Wright State was a sneaky upset pick in Tuesday night's Horizon title game, but it stood no chance. Butler completed its perfect season in the league by roughing up the Raiders, 70-45. This group was the class of the league and proved so by kicking the last team into its grave with authority. Who knew Butler could blow someone out so effectively!

Butler has moved up alongside Xavier and Gonzaga to create the troika of mid-major teams that have become a staple in March. The school has made the Sweet 16 twice since the tournament expanded in 1985 (2003 and 2007), but is this the year when it can get to the Elite Eight? Some might consider it a dark horse for the Final Four. But with the style they play, winning four straight games is a tall task.

Player to know: Gordon Hayward. The sophomore is the team's best player (no disrespect to Matt Howard) and has such a high ceiling that he could be a First Team All-America by his senior year. Hayward puts up a team-best 15.4 points per game while snaring 8.5 rebounds and making 83 percent of his foul shots. A big man who can hit the freebies? Clutch.

The Vitals:

»Record: 28-4, 18-0 Horizon
»Team colors: blue and white
»We're thinking: a 4-seed
»KenPom ranking: 25
»RPI: 17
»Best win: @ Ohio State (24-7)
»Worst loss: Minnesota (18-12)
»Notable stat: If the 20 consecutive wins doesn't do it for you, how about the defense across the board? Butler allows 59.7 points per, and that's 13th best in the country. Plus, it keeps foes to 30 percent from the 3-point line and 41 percent from the field. If you can't get out of the 50s, you're not going to win against this team.
»Most recent tournament history:
-2009 (9-seed): L first round to LSU, 75-71.
-2008 (7-seed): W first round over South Alabama, 81-61; L second round to No. 2 Tennessee, 76-71 (OT).
-2007 (5-seed): W first round over Old Dominion, 57-46; W second round over No. 4 Maryland, 62-59; L Sweet 16 to No. 1 Florida, 65-57.

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