Butler’s making a late-season surge … again

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Thanks to the collapse of Cleveland State without the services of D’Aundray Brown, who is battling a groin injury, Valparaiso would have gone home as Horizon League regular season champs even if they hadn’t pulled out an overtime win against lowly Loyola (IL) on Tuesday night.

With Valpo backing into their league title — they had lost two of three before Tuesday’s game — and without another dominant presence in the conference thanks to Brown’s injury, it looks like, once again, the Butler Bulldogs will be the trendy pick to win the Horizon’s automatic bid.

On Tuesday night, Butler thoroughly abused Illinois-Chicago 69-44, honoring senior Ronald Nored — who easily falls into the category of “this has to be his eighth year in college” — in his final home game with a victory. The win is Butler’s fifth in a row, a stretch that has carried the Bulldogs into sole possession of second place in the league.

What’s carried Bulldogs is an offense that is finally clicking. Butler’s defense is as good as ever, but offensively this group has had their ups and downs. They currently rank 228th in offensive efficiency and 341st in three point shooting. That offensive rate drops to 270th in the country, or 0.956 PPP, once you factor out schedule strength. But during this win streak, Butler’s offense has “exploded”, scoring 1.019 PPP over their last five games. That number would put the Bulldogs in the top 150 nationally.

Its not great by any stretch. But when you play defense like Butler does, you don’t need your offense to be all that powerful, you just need it to be powerful enough.

And right now, Butler is.

Does Brad Stevens have his group primed for another tournament run?

Would you bet against it?

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.