Butler (20-13) at Valparaiso (21-10)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 3, 8:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) -- Valparaiso, Indiana. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Butler 12-5, Valpo 13-2. Away Record: Butler 6-8, Valpo 8-7. Neutral Record: Butler 2-0, Valpo 0-1. Conference Record: Butler 11-7, Valpo 14-4. Series Record: Butler leads, 67-35.
GAME NOTES: Fifth-seeded Butler has advanced to the 2012 Horizon League Tournament semifinals to face the No. 1 seed and host team, the Valparaiso Crusaders.
Butler made easy work of fourth-seeded Milwaukee in the quarterfinal round, winning 71-49 to earn its 20th win of the season. The Bulldogs have now posted seven consecutive 20-win seasons, tying a school record. Despite the solid year, it looks as though Butler will need to win the tournament championship if it wants to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
Valparaiso had an outstanding season, going 21-10 overall and 14-4 in conference, which includes wins in 11 of its last 14 games to overtake Cleveland State to claim the HL's regular-season title, its first in five years as a member of the league. The No. 1 seed is especially important in this tournament, as the Crusaders not only earned a double-bye into tonight's semifinals, but also get to play on their home court where they are an outstanding 13-2 this year.
Butler has a 67-35 advantage in the all-time series with Valparaiso, but the Crusaders have won three straight meetings after Butler took the previous 10.
Butler put together a spectacular defensive effort in Friday's win, holding Milwaukee to just 31.9 percent shooting from the field. The Bulldogs' offense was clicking as well, making 50 percent of their total shots and they were paced by a pair of impressive performances from Khyle Marshall (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Roosevelt Jones (17 points). The scoring explosion was a departure for Butler this year as it has struggled for the most part, averaging just 63.6 ppg. Andrew Smith is the squad's top producer at 11.1 ppg and 5.3 rpg. Though no other Bulldog averages double figures in the scoring column, Jones (7.9 ppg) and Marshall (9.6 ppg) have both picked up their play of late. Butler has been able to make up for its offensive woes by being strong on defense, yielding a mere 61 ppg.
Valparaiso is led by the Horizon League Player of the Year, Ryan Broekhoff, who is the first Crusader to claim the honor since Lucos Barton in 2001-02. Broekhoff finished the regular season fourth in the league in scoring (14.8 ppg) and first in rebounding (8.4 rpg), while draining a team-high 62 three- pointers. Kevin Van Wijk joined Broekhoff on the All-League First Team by tallying 14.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg and a league-best .626 field goal percentage, marking the first time the Crusaders had two First-Team honorees since 2001-02. As a team, Valpo's offense has been stellar this year, ranking second in scoring (69.6 ppg) and first in field goal percentage (.472). The Crusaders are led by head coach Bryce Drew, who was tabbed the league's Coach of the Year in his first season.
The momentum that Butler has put together in the last few weeks has been impressive and has surely gotten the attention of Valparaiso, but the Crusaders have been just as hot and with the home fans on their side, they will be rested and ready to take down the Bulldogs.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Valparaiso 67, Butler 63
03/03 10:39:50 ET