The Butler Bulldogs are back in the Final Four again in 2011 after last season's dream run. As a No. 8 seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Butler was a long-shot to make the Final Four, but surprised everyone with a run that's been nothing short of impressive. After a slow start to the season, something clicked for the Bulldogs after a Feb. 3 loss to Youngstown State, their third loss in a row at the time. Since then, Butler hasn't lost, and has recaptured the magic that made the Bulldogs America's darling during the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
After losing Gordon Haywood and Willie Veasley from the 2010 team that came inches from an NCAA Championship, Butler turned to Shelvin Mack, Matt Howard and a gang of complimentary players to make a run in the 2011 NCAA Tournament that's included wins over No. 1 seed Pittsburgh, No. 2 seed Florida and No. 4 seed Wisconsin. On Saturday, it's mid-major against mid-major with a spot in the 2011 NCAA Tournament Championship on the line.
Like we did with VCU, let's take a look at the Bulldogs with a little help from Ken Pomeroy. Check out the Butler team page at Pomeroy's site for more on the Bulldogs. To find out what these numbers mean, check out Pomeroy's explanation.
KenPom rank: 39
Offense: 112.7 offensive efficiency (ranked 34th), 50.9 eFG% (84th), 17.2 turnover percentage (28th) and 38.3 free throw rate (150th)
Defense: 95.6 defensive efficiency (61st), 48.5 eFG% (135th), 27.9 offensive rebounding percentage allowed (17th)
What it means: Butler and VCU are similar in many ways, though the Bulldogs are much better rebounders, especially on the defensive glass. The Bulldogs take care of the ball on offense, have an above-average offensive efficiency and are roughly average shooters. On defense, Butler will force tough shots, but the Bulldogs don't block shots or force turnovers. It's all about contested shots, and Butler can do it with the best of them.
Star watch: Get used to hearing the name Matt Howard, Butler's pesky forward. He's everywhere on the floor, drawing charges, scrambling for loose balls and being a general thorn in the Bulldogs' opponents' sides. Howard has the second-best ORtg on the team, at 121.2, is the second-best rebounder, 10.3 OR% and 20.5 DR%, and can draw fouls with the best, 6.2 per game.
Andrew Smith compliments Howard in the post, and has the best ORtg on the team at 125.5 while using 17.6 percent of the Bulldogs' possessions and taking 16.6 percent of the shots. His offensive rebounding percentage, 11.6, is the best on the team and his defensive rebounding percentage in the second-best.
Shelvin Mack is the scorer, and the player that makes the Bulldogs' offense go. Mack uses 28.2 percent of Butler's possessions and takes 29.6 percent of the shots while on the floor while also posting an assist rate of 25.3. Shawn Vanzant compliments Mack on the perimeter, and has an ORtg of 111.6. His efG% is among the best on the team, and Vanzant is able to pick up the scoring load on the outside when Mack is unable to.
Butler takes the floor in Houston for the Final Four against VCU on Saturday. For more previews, check back with our Final Four StoryStream throughout the day. Check out the printable bracket at SB Nation or visit the NCAA Tournament hub for more March Madness coverage