When the 2013-14 season began it was clear that the Butler Bulldogs would have some major adjustments to make. A program that reached consecutive Final Fours had completed its conference “climb,” landing in the Big East after spending time in the Horizon League and Atlantic 10. With a change in conference, head coach, and the loss of Roosevelt Jones to injury, Butler’s first run through the Big East was (and still is) going to be an interesting one.
But it’s difficult to think that many expected the Bulldogs to start conference play with an 0-4 record, with three of the defeats coming in overtime. The latest heartbreaker was a 70-67 home loss to Georgetown, with the Hoyas playing without both Jabril Trawick and Joshua Smith. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored 18 points and Markel Starks, whose three-pointer with 16 seconds remaining sent the game into overtime, added 15 to lead the shorthanded Hoyas.
The difference for Butler on Saturday night? Three-point shooting. After going 8-for-14 from beyond the arc in their double overtime loss to DePaul the Bulldogs shot 2-for-21 from distance against Georgetown, and while the Hoyas (4-for-20) weren’t much better they made up for it by making 56.8% of their two-point attempts. By comparison Butler shot 48.7% from two, and while that wouldn’t qualify as a “bad” percentage in close games that can make the difference when struggling from deep as the Bulldogs did.
Kellen Dunham scored 21 points but Georgetown made him work for every look, as he shot 6-for-19 from the field and 1-for-11 from beyond the arc with Khyle Marshall adding 18 and freshman Andrew Chrabascz 14 for the Bulldogs. Close games can be determined by a possession or two at any point in the game, not just in the climatic final minutes that most tend to focus on.
Given the personnel losses from last season (Jones, who will return next season, Rotnei Clark and Andrew Smith), Butler’s margin for error has shrunk. And in three of their four Big East games the Bulldogs have fallen in overtime with the DePaul defeat requiring a second extra session. The key now is to not allow those close defeats to weigh down the players, but given the way in which Butler competes that shouldn’t be an issue.
However the schedule could be. And with Butler’s next game being a trip to Omaha to take on Creighton, 0-5 in Big East play is a real possibility.