Bucknell quickly came a trendy upset pick when the brackets were announced on Sunday evening, and it wasn’t necessarily wrong.
The Bison are really good and they have an NBA caliber center in Mike Muscala. That’s a combination that is ideal when trying to identify what under-the-radar teams have a chance to make a run in the tournament.
Except for one thing: they drew Butler.
That’s the Butler that is coached by Brad Stevens. The Butler that has 6-foot-11 grinder Andrew Smith in the middle. The Butler that can be as physical and stymieing defensively as anyone in the country. No one in the country game-plans better than Stevens, and no team in the country executes a game-plan better than his Bulldogs.
Which, if you listened to me (I love self-congratulation), means that you are happy after No. 6 seed Butler’s 68-56 win over No. 11 Bucknell in the opening round of East Region play out in Lexington. Muscala finished with nine points on 4-17 shooting to go along with 10 boards and four fouls, and outside of a flurry of early-second half mid-range jumpers from Joe William (20 points, 10-17 shooting) and a bunch of threes in the final minutes when the outcome had already been decided, the Bison spent a good 30 minutes of this game completely incapable of executing offensively.
And that’s good news for the Bulldogs.
Because they weren’t all that good on Thursday, either. Rotnei Clarke was 5-14 from the floor and 2-8 from three; he missed his first six triples — Butler as a team missed their first 14 — before hitting two daggers in the final minutes. As a team, Butler shot 36.4% from the field and 3-17 from three.
They won this game because they were able to defend, something that Butler is going to be able to do pretty consistently. And if you think Clarke and company are going to shoot that poorly throughout the whole tournament, well, it’s no wonder you’re already 0-1 in your bracket in the East Region.
Butler advances to take on the winner of No. 3 Marquette-No. 14 Davidson.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.