Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. If there was any doubt the Butler Bulldogs were more than a one-year wonder, it's been erased during the 2011 NCAA Tournament as Brad Steven has recaptured the magic and guided his team back to the NCAA Championship Game for a second consecutive year. But getting to the championship isn't enough this time around, and Butler's looking for more after coming up just short against Duke in the 2010 championship.
How did Butler make it back for the second time in as many years? After a Feb. 3 loss to Youngstown State, the Bulldogs third in as many games, something clicked for the struggling team. Since then, Stevens' squad has been perfect, running the table in Horizon League play, winning the conference tournament and rattling off five consecutive NCAA Tournament wins, all coming from the No. 8 seed line.
Butler plays a disciplined brand of basketball, limiting its turnovers, taking good shots on the offensive end and forcing tough shots on the defensive end. It shows in the Bulldogs' advanced stats, as well. Butler is efficient, posting a 112.6 offensive efficiency rating and 95.0 defensive efficiency rating. These numbers aren't eye-popping or in the upper-echelon of college basketball, but they're well above average.
The Bulldogs also turn the ball over just 17.1 percent of the time on the offensive end while playing smart basketball. On the defensive end, Butler crashes the boards, limiting opponents to an offensive rebounding percentage of 27.5 percent. They won't block shots -- Butler's block percentage of 4.5 is one of the worst in the NCAA -- but they will force tough shots, limiting opponents to 32.5 percent from beyond the arc in the process.
It's not a flashy team, or a team filled with stars, but Stevens has his Bulldogs playing at as high a level as anyone, and it's shown in the NCAA Tournament. On Monday, the Bulldogs face one more test as they take on UConn with the NCAA championship hanging in the balance. With the way Butler has been playing so far, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Bulldogs cutting down the nets one more time.
For more on the matchup, check out the rest of our NCAA Championship Game StoryStream.