Butler belongs. The Bulldogs no longer the belle of the ball

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Butler can no longer be called a cinderella.

Not after their 61-54 win over Wisconsin. Not after Butler reached their second straight Elite 8, which came in a year where they were written off — twice — as candidates to even make the dance. Hell, you would have been crazy to keep using that name after the Bulldogs knocked off Pitt last weekend.

The final score doesn’t do this game or Butler’s dominance justice. The Badgers play at a slow pace, slow enough that they have the fewest number of possessions per game in the country. The pace limits the number of points that they score which hides the fact that Wisconsin is the second most efficient team in the country offensively.

And tonight, the Badgers were completely shut down on the offensive end of the floor.

Tim Jarmusz hit a three with 5:43 left in the first half to cut Butler’s lead to 25-21. It was the last field goal that Wisconsin would hit in the first half, as they missed their final six shots as the Bulldogs pushed out to a 33-24 lead. Wisconsin then missed their first 10 shots of the second half, going scoreless for 5:57 before Mike Breusewitz hit a short jumper and drew a foul.

Prior to the jumper, Butler held Wisconsin to just three points and no field goals over a 11:40 stretch that spanned both halves as they opened up a 42-24 lead.

It gets worse. After the Breusewitz jumper, it would be another 3:25 before Wisconsin scored again. Butler had opened up a 47-27 lead that was too much for the Badgers to overcome. They made a late push as Butler relaxed with the lead, but a flurry of late turnovers wasn’t enough to dig the Badgers out of that hole.

Earlier this season, I wrote about Butler’s struggles and how they centered on the Bulldog’s lack of defensive versatility with Gordon Hayward and Willie Veasley’s graduation. And its still a problem. Jon Leuer’s 1-12 performance and Jordan Taylor’s struggles for the first 35 minutes of the game weren’t just the result of good defense.

What’s changed?

Chase Stigall, who is bigger than Zack Hahn, is seeing more minutes in Butler’s three guard lineup. Andrew Smith and Khyle Marshall have given the Bulldogs a nice combination of size and athleticism alongside Howard. Ronald Nored and Shawn Vanzant are playing their typical, harassing, tough brand of basketball.

More importantly, Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard have played like stars in this tournament. They’ve played like Butler deserves to be here.

And you know what? They do.

You can keep your glass slipper to yourself.