Butler made sure it won’t have to leave home when the Horizon League tournament begins next week.
Before the 14th-ranked Bulldogs can worry about that, however, the league champions will conclude the regular season by hosting lowly Detroit on Saturday afternoon.
Butler (26-3, 15-2) beat rival Wright State 66-61 at home on Thursday to secure the school’s first outright regular-season league title since 2002-03. The Bulldogs shared the Horizon championship with the Raiders last season.
Thursday’s victory guaranteed the Bulldogs the No. 1 seed and a bye into the semifinals of next week’s Horizon League tournament, which Wright State won at home a year ago. Butler will host that contest and the tournament championship game if it advances.
Though the Bulldogs appear a safe bet to make the NCAA tournament regardless of what happens in the conference tournament, playing at home should make it easier to attain the automatic bid that comes with winning the league’s postseason event.
“It’s nice, but we still have a game to play on Saturday,” said first-year Butler coach Brad Stevens, whose team is 11-1 at home this season.
While the Bulldogs have little to play for against Detroit (7-21, 3-14) - last in the league and losers of three in a row - Stevens will likely do his best to keep his team focused on recording its 11th straight league victory.
On Thursday, light-scoring senior Julian Betko scored a career-high 17 points, while leading scorer Mike Green had 15 points, eight assists and seven rebounds as Butler rebounded from a 71-64 nonconference home loss to then-No. 16 Drake last Saturday.
Betko, a starter who averages 5.2 points per game, was 5-for-7 from 3-point range and scored all of his points in the first half. A role player like Betko could be helpful in the postseason for Butler, which looks for another deep run into the NCAA tournament after losing to Florida in the regional semifinals in 2007.
“He’s a tough guy,” Stevens said. “We didn’t intend for him to shoot that much, but that’s the way they played us and he was open.”
Betko might be in for another big game Saturday as the Bulldogs could limit playing time for top scorers like Green, who rebounded Thursday after scoring a combined 21 points in his previous three games.
Freshman Matt Howard, who had 12 points Thursday, had 20 and 12 rebounds in Butler’s 53-46 win at Detroit on Dec. 6.
The Titans will try to avoid a fourth straight loss to the Bulldogs and ninth in a row at Butler.
Detroit heads to Hinkle Fieldhouse coming off a 59-56 loss at Valparaiso on Thursday for its 11th consecutive Horizon League road defeat. The Titans are 1-11 away from home overall this season.
Josh Samarco had 15 points, but his 3-point attempt in the final seconds was off the mark leading to Detroit’s second loss by three points or fewer in its last three contests.
Detroit continues to be without 5-foot-10 senior and Horizon League scoring leader Jon Goode on Saturday.
Goode, who averages 19.3 points and had 21 against Butler in December, was lost for the season after injuring his knee against Wright State on Jan. 20.