5 things to know about Butler

By: Matt Jones
Published: Sunday, March 11, 2018
Butler forward Kelan Martin (30) celebrates during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Creighton in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Butler forward Kelan Martin (30) celebrates during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Creighton in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

— Arkansas faces one of the NCAA Tournament's most recognizable teams Friday when it meets Butler in Detroit.

The Bulldogs are in the NCAA Tournament for the 10th time in 12 seasons and have won 18 postseason games during that time. While a member of the Horizon League, Butler became a household name with consecutive appearances in the national championship game in 2010 and 2011, losses to Duke and Connecticut.

Through coaching and conference affiliation changes, Butler has continued to be a tough out at the tournament. The Bulldogs have won at least one tournament game each of the last three seasons and advanced to the Sweet 16 last year for the fourth time since 2007.

This is the second consecutive year the Razorbacks and Bulldogs have been in the same region of the NCAA Tournament. In fact, the teams nearly met last season, but Arkansas blew a late lead in a 72-65 loss to North Carolina in the second round.

The Tar Heels beat Butler 92-80 in the Sweet 16 en route to winning the national title.

Arkansas and Butler have played only once and not since a 37-21 Bulldogs home win on Jan. 2, 1931. The programs were interlinked in some offseason news in 2011 when Arkansas' leading scorer, Rotnei Clarke, opted to transfer after a coaching change to Butler, where he played one season after a redshirt year.

Enough with history. Here are five things to know about this year's Butler team, which went 20-13 overall and lost to Villanova in the Big East Tournament semifinals.


Battle Tested

Butler's 33 games have included 15 against teams that made the NCAA Tournament.

The Bulldogs are 5-10 against tournament teams this season with wins over Villanova, Creighton, Providence, Seton Hall and Ohio State.

In the Dec. 30 win over Villanova, Butler made 10 consecutive 3-pointers and won 101-93 at the historic Hinkle Fieldhouse. It was the Bulldogs' third win over an Associated Press No. 1 team in six seasons.

Butler's 10 losses were to Villanova (twice), Xavier (twice), Seton Hall (twice), Creighton, Providence, Purdue and Texas.

Compare that to Arkansas, which played 16 NCAA Tournament teams in 34 games. The Razorbacks are 8-8 against teams that made the postseason.

Butler had the No. 20 strength of schedule this season. Arkansas' strength of schedule was rated No. 30.

Big Scorer

Butler is led by 6-7 senior Kelan Martin, who leads the Big East with a 20.8 points per game scoring average.

Martin has scored at least 30 points four times this season and has scored 20 or more points 19 times.

He scored a season-high 37 points in a win over Marquette on Jan. 12, a game in which he made 12 of 17 field goal attempts and all nine free throws. He added 30 and 34 points against No. 1 seeds Villanova and Xavier in consecutive games in February.

Martin scored 35 points last week in a loss at Seton Hall.

Martin ranks 12th nationally with 546 field goal attempts and 22nd in made field goals with 241. He also is a capable rebounder with a 6.2 average, including five games of 10 or more. He has led the Bulldogs in rebounding 13 times this season.

The Louisville, Ky., native is a three-time All-Big East selection, including a unanimous pick this year. He averaged 23.6 points per game in conference play.

Since the Big East reconfigured in 2013-14, only former Creighton star Doug McDermott scored more points in the conference.

First-Year Coach

Butler endured a coaching change late last off-season when former coach Chris Holtmann was hired to replace Thad Matta at Ohio State.

His replacement was LaVall Jordan, a 38-year-old former standout for the Bulldogs who had also been a candidate when Brad Stevens left Butler to coach the Boston Celtics. Jordan was an assistant coach with Stevens at Butler from 2004-07.

Jordan later spent time as an assistant coach at Iowa and Michigan. He was on the Wolverines' staff in 2013 when they finished national runner-up to Louisville.

Prior to returning to Butler, Jordan spent one season as head coach at Wisconsin-Milwaukee and had an 11-24 record.

Close to Home

Butler is seeded lower than Arkansas, but will be playing much closer to home than the Razorbacks.

The Bulldogs' campus in Indianapolis is 290 miles from Detroit, as opposed to 900 miles between Fayetteville and the tournament site. It is a similar distance as Arkansas would have had to travel to first-round sites in Dallas or Wichita, Kan.

Butler is one of two Indiana-based teams in Detroit. The winner of Arkansas-Butler will likely play No. 2 seed Purdue, which defeated Butler 82-67 earlier this season.

Turnover Margin

Like Arkansas, Butler is capable of forcing turnovers in high numbers.

The Bulldogs rank 30th nationally - just behind Arkansas in a tie at 28th - with 11.2 turnovers forced per game. Butler has forced double-digit turnovers 29 times this season and more than 20 turnovers six times.

In a 67-66 win over Ohio State at the Phil Knight Invitational in November, the Bulldogs forced a season-high 24 turnovers. Butler has scored 20 or more points off turnovers nine times this season.

The Bulldogs average nearly seven steals per game.

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