Baby steps, Butler. Baby steps.
It’s been a trying season for Brad Stevens’ Bulldogs. Two overtime losses. Another by three points. Another by four. An offense that struggles to score – on a good day. They hardly resemble the team that made back-to-back Final Four runs.
Even when things do look promising – a win at Stanford or beating Purdue – Butler can’t seem to find any consistency.
But this month’s shown some promise.
The Bulldogs beat Wright State, lost a tough one to Detroit, then pulled off road wins at Youngstown State and Sunday at Cleveland State, which happened to be the Horizon League leaders. Now Butler (15-12, 9-6) is tied for third in the conference and picking up steam. (Having Khyle Marshall back in the lineup helps.)
“This might be a launching pad for us, going to the next level and keep winning games and making the tournament. Who knows?” sophomore Chrishawn Hopkins told the Indianapolis Star. “We’re just focused on winning right now. Nothing else matters.”
Is it coincidence that last year’s win at Cleveland State marked the beginning of a 14-game win streak that ended in the national title game? Yes.
This season’s group has such trouble scoring – only one team is worse than Butler’s 26.6 percent 3-point percentage; a killer in Stevens’ offense – that it simply can’t stay with most teams. They’ve scored more than 1 PPP in just 10 games this season. They bested that mark 13 times in last year’s win streak.
If there’s an opportunity to keep working on that offense, it’s during the last three conference games, though. Loyola Chicago and Illinois Chicago are the Horizon’s two worst teams and awful on defense. Valpo’s defense is better, but not by much.
But it’s all about the baby steps. Butler’s been in pressure situations before. This isn’t anything new.
“The goal was to grow and play your best at the end,” Stevens told the Star. “We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there.”
You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.