The Butler Bulldogs are playing like one of the best teams in the nation. Amidst the toughest stretch of a challenging nonconference schedule, the 9-0 Bulldogs passed yet another test on Saturday, pummeling Florida 76-62.
It’s Butler’s third win against an SEC opponent this year and perhaps its most impressive. While Florida hasn’t lived up to expectations so far this season, the immensely talented Gators were a top-ten team in the preseason; but they were completely outplayed by the Bulldogs.
Early foul trouble for Kamar Baldwin and Bryce Nze forestalled Florida’s doom as Butler’s offense had a really hard time getting anything going early in the first half. The suffocating defense Butler has played consistently this year kept them in the game, but at the 7:46 mark, a Kerry Blackshear Jr. layup put Florida up 19-13.
Once LaVall Jordan was able to get his preferred group on the floor, the game changed. Aaron Thompson and Baldwin sliced up the Florida defense and the Bulldogs zipped the ball around to find open shooters. In the last six minutes of the half, Jordan Tucker and Sean McDermott combined for 17 points, including a McDermott three at the buzzer which gave Butler a 35-26 lead.
The second half was more of the same. Butler played tremendous defense and the Gators had to grind for every bucket they got. Offensively, the Bulldogs continued to display impressive ball movement, generating easy looks inside and wide open three-pointers. Butler finished with 19 assists on 25 made field goals; Thompson and Baldwin led the way with seven and six assists, respectively.
Another indication of Butler’s terrific ball movement is the fact that Thompson and McDermott tied for the team lead in points with 16, followed by Tucker with 13. Baldwin, who has shouldered most of the scoring responsibility this season, chipped in 12.
Overall, it was a tremendously played game by Butler. Coach Jordan’s squad has answered every challenge that’s come its way this season, not only winning every game but doing so convincingly.
Butler improves to 9-0 and will likely jump ahead in the rankings. The Bulldogs, already ranked #24 in both the AP and Coaches’ polls, had moved all the way up to #16 in KenPom, having beaten Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, and Florida. They will have just a couple days to recover before facing likely the toughest challenge yet, a road game against Baylor.
Butler Might Be Very Good
Late in the second half of this one, the Fox broadcasting crew of Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery began to discuss a significant question: “How good are these guys?” It’s a question that has to be re-evaluated with each Butler victory.
First, the answer was, “They might be better than last year.”
Then it was, “They look like they might compete for an NCAA Tournament bid.”
Now, people are starting to say, “They may win the Big East.”
Of course, it’s too early to really entertain a thought like that, but the point is, the more Butler wins, the more it’s worth asking the question. Based on the difficulty of schedule, the undefeated record, and, perhaps most of all, the way Butler has won these games, it seems as though Coach Jordan may have a top-20 team in college basketball on his hands.
Butler faces Baylor on Tuesday, December 10, at 9:00 p.m. ET.