The Bracket Big Board takes into consideration past returns, current performance and expected future gains in determining who should be included among the field of 65 (31 automatic and 34 at-large bids). Essentially, the Bracket Big Board is a cheat sheet designed for amateur bracketologists if they were filling out a Tourney Pick ‘Em '10 entry today. The Bracket Big Board is updated every Monday until the dance card is officially unveiled March 14.
When outwardly muscular mid-majors look in the mirror a reflection of skinny-armed girly men often conveys. Small conference Cinderella hopefuls with hunky records can be very deceiving.
However, Brad Stevens' Butler Bulldogs are absolutely shredded.
Playing home games in a building immortalized by "Hoosiers," historic Hinkle Fieldhouse, the perennial darling is once again blazing a trail to another Horizon conference championship. Unblemished in league play, the Bulldogs have ripped off 17 straight wins, a school record. More impressively, they've upended Big Ten titan Ohio St. - sans Evan Turner - Xavier and dismantled a quality Siena squad in non-conference action. A top five seed is sure to follow. Though Temple, New Mexico and Gonzaga have an argument, the 25-win mighty mite has earned the reputation of being college basketball's deadliest "little guy." Renaming them the "Fighting Pescis" seems appropriate.
Despite playing second fiddle to intrastate powerhouse Purdue, Butler deserves every accolade. The small liberal arts school has cranked out more wins than any other Indiana basketball franchise over the past decade. With two Sweet Sixteen appearances and an average of 23.4 wins per year since 2000, its amazing how the program has maintained a fair level of consistency considering Stevens is its fourth different head coach in 10 years.
Since the Final Four will be held in their backyard in a little over a month, the Bulldogs are thinking big.
Balanced, experienced and battle-tested, Butler is a team to be feared. Interior stalwart Matt Howard, though occasionally plagued by foul trouble, is an outstanding post player. Meanwhile, versatile guards Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack routinely stuff stat sheets with their excellent all-around play. Glue guys Willie Veasley and Ronald Nored also play critical roles. In terms of chemistry, the Bulldogs are a well-oiled machine. As Siena sideline suit Fran McCaffery remarked after Saturday's defeat at Hinkle:
"They're different than some of the teams we played," said McCaffery, whose team previously lost to Temple, Georgia Tech and Northern Iowa. "They may very well be the best in the sense that they really don't make mistakes. If you're going to beat them you almost have to play the perfect game."
From a KenPom perspective, Butler has made dramatic strides throughout the season. The tenacious Canines, ranked 27th in defensive efficiency nationally, have yielded just 0.83 points per possession in their past six contests. Since January 21 only one opponent, Wright St., has recorded an effective field goal percentage above 44 against them. In a halfcourt setting, they are no pushover.
Offensively, the Bulldogs are equally lethal. They do contribute minimally from distance, but, due to their attacking nature, they've drawn numerous fouls (BU ranks 17th in FTA/FGA), netting nearly 75.1 percent of their opportunities, the 11th-best conversion rate in the country. Teams that defend, rebound, which Butler also does well (11th in defensive rebound percentage), and successfully convert at the line typically are difficult outs in tournament play.
Based on Butler's glowing characteristics, the mid-major macho men could flex plenty of muscle in March.
Here are this week's movers and shakers on the Bracket Big Board:
On the Bubble: Connecticut (16-11), Charlotte (18-8), Mississippi St. (19-8), Memphis (20-7), Mississippi (17-9), Minnesota (16-10), South Florida (16-10), Washington (18-9), St. Louis (18-8), Arizona St. (19-8), Notre Dame (17-10)
Dropped Out: Mississippi St., Mississippi, Charlotte, Western Carolina, Pacific, Arkansas St., Belmont
Conference Breakdown: American East (1), ACC (7), Atlantic Sun (1), Atlantic 10 (5), Big 12 (7), Big East (7), Big Sky (1), Big South (1), Big Ten (5), Big West (1), Colonial (1), Conference USA (2), Horizon (1), Ivy (1), Metro (1), Mid-American (1), Mid-Eastern (1), Missouri Valley (1), Mountain West (4), Northeast (1), Ohio Valley (1), Pac-10 (1), Patriot (1), SEC (3), Southern (1), Southland (1), SWAC (1), Summit (1), Sun Belt (1), West Coast (2), WAC (1)