Exhibition loss shows Butler has a lot of room for improvement

Brad Stevens has repeatedly insisted he will never watch game film of the Bulldogs' horrific shooting night against UConn in last April's national title game.

Too bad for Stevens he probably can't take an identical approach with the Bulldogs' first exhibition game of the new season.

Butler's 53-50 loss to Division II Northern State on Wednesday night was a humbling start to the season for a program coming off back-to-back appearances in the national championship game. It's silly to underestimate the Bulldogs after their success the past decade, but it's also clear they have a long ways to go in trying to replace Shelvin Mack, Matt Howard and the four other players that graduated off last year's team.

The statistics suggest it's Butler's offensive efficiency where there is most room for growth. The Bulldogs shot 32.7 percent from the field and 3-for-18 from three-point range, also going scoreless over the game's final 4:35 as Northern State reeled off final 11 points to spring the upset.

Butler's talented interior duo of Andrew Smith and Khyle Marshall combined for 33 points on respectable 11 of 25 shooting. Every other player on the team shot a combined 7-for-30 from the field for a paltry 17 points.

It's easy to forget that Butler lost to the likes of Evansville in the preseason last year and started just 6-5 in Horizon League play before putting it all together to win 14 straight entering the national title game. Still, considering that Northern State lost by 18 at Northern Iowa and by 32 at Purdue earlier this week, it's clear the Bulldogs have a lower starting point this season than in the past.

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