Sports Outside the Beltway

Butler Did It

Two nights ago, the Groundhog watched Carolina-Duke, but last night he was trying to understand how in the world Butler was in the top 10. Settling in for the Butler-Cleveland State game our furry fellow fan of hoops found the answer. Those boys can shoot it. The Bulldogs easily trounced 92-50, led by Pete Campbell’s 28 points.

Ranked higher in the AP’s poll than at any time in school history, Butler (23-2, 11-1 Horizon) extended its winning streak to nine in a row with an eye-popping display of offensive efficiency and marksmanship.

Butler, which knocked off Notre Dame, Indiana, Tennessee and Gonzaga earlier this season, dominated the overmatched Vikings (8-18, 2-11) from the opening tip. Mike Green added 14 points, Brandon Crone 13 and A.J. Graves 12 for the Bulldogs, who set season-highs in points, field goals, assists and margin of victory.

“On any given night, we’re capable of that,” Butler coach Todd Lickliter said. “Pete’s a great shooter, but it goes back to guys sharing the basketball.”

Campbell put on a shooting clinic hitting on eight of eleven three point field goals. The six-seven junior forward has been on fire of later, totaling double digits in ten of his last eleven games. Remarkably, he has been racking up these points as Butler’s sixth man. As important as guards A.J. Graves and Mike Green who are both on the floor for more than 33 minutes a game, Campbell has become the high percentage scoring threat from both behind the arc.

Coach Lickliter attributes the success to players sharing the ball. The team averages 13 assists a game. They move the ball well giving Campbell great looks, which has led to his outstanding 53% touch from behind the arc. That ball movement helps the guards too, giving them better opportunities to score.

The recent success is rewarding for a team often overlooked. At 23-2, they, along with Wisconsin, have the best record in Division I men’s basketball, are a half game better than the 22-2 Nevada Wolf Pack. The Badgers have a big matchup with third ranked Ohio State in two weeks. Butler meanwhile faces no more ranked opponents, as they wrap up Horizon Legue play. They haven’t played a lot of highly regarded teams, but they will likely have the best record in men’s basketball when the season ends.

The groundhog was surprised. He thought Butler was a school for domestic help, but he knows better, now. They make shooters there. Unselfish marksmen, who play fundamentally sound basketball, a rare commodity in college hoops, never mind the pros, might just be the key to advancing deep into the tournament. The groundhog will be watching, and marking his bracket accordingly.

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