Following a record-setting performance in its Great Alaska Shootout opener, No. 22 Butler looks to ride its hot shooting from long range into the tournament final when it faces Virginia Tech on Friday.
The Bulldogs (4-0) set a shootout record by making 17 3-pointers, in 32 attempts, en route to a 79-65 win over Michigan on Wednesday night. It was the most 3-pointers made by Butler since going 20-for-33 in a 92-50 win at Cleveland State on Feb. 8.
“I thought we handled the pressure well and that led to good shots,” first-year Bulldogs coach Brad Stevens said.
Butler ranked eighth in the nation last season in 3-pointers made with 321 while going 29-7 and reaching the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament.
With a senior-laden lineup back under the direction of former assistant Stevens, the Bulldogs appear to be just as dangerous from the outside as they were last season.
Butler is shooting 43.9 percent (47-for-107) from 3-point range and again rank among the national leaders in 3-pointers made. Six players made one Wednesday for the Bulldogs, who have one more 3-point basket this season than 2-pointers.
“They’re going to slice and dice you no matter what you play against them,” first-year Michigan coach John Beilein said.
Forward Pete Campbell went 6-for-11 from 3-point range for 18 points Wednesday, while star guard A.J. Graves was 5-for-10 from 3 and had 17 points for the Bulldogs, who posted a season-high 19 assists.
Graves, who made a career-best 98 3-pointers last season, is averaging 19.0 points and shooting a team-leading 54.3 percent (19-for-35) from beyond the arc.
Butler is looking to reach Saturday’s title game and a possible matchup with No. 14 Gonzaga, the only other ranked team in this tournament.
First, the Bulldogs will meet Virginia Tech for the first time.
The Hokies (2-0) have been playing solid perimeter defense, holding their first two opponents to 34.1 percent from 3-point range. Neither Elon nor Eastern Washington, though, are capable of making shots the way Butler can.
Virginia Tech also has shot fairly well from 3-point range, going 13-for-30.
Freshman Malcolm Delaney was 4-for-6 from 3 and finished with 18 points off the bench as the Hokies beat Eastern Washington 69-52 on Thursday in its first game of the shootout.
The Hokies, who start two freshmen and were picked to finish 10th in the ACC after reaching the second round of the NCAA tournament last season, look to open with three straight wins for the first time since 2004-05.
Virginia Tech will try to win a fourth consecutive regular-season contest over a ranked opponent after beating Duke, plus North Carolina twice last season.