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(20) Butler (22-6) at Virginia Commonwealth (22-6)
Saturday, March 2, 12 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Verizon Wireless Arena (11,140) -- Richmond, Virginia. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Butler 13-2, VCU 13-2. Away Record: Butler 6-3, VCU 8-2. Neutral Record: Butler 3-1, VCU 1-2. Conference Record: Butler 9-4, VCU 10-3. Series Record: Butler leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: The 20th-ranked Butler Bulldogs visit Verizon Wireless Arena on Saturday for a rematch of their 2011 Final Four matchup with the Virginia Commonwealth Ram in a key Atlantic 10 Conference tilt.
Both of these schools were Cinderella programs the year they arrived in the 2011 Final Four. Butler improved to 2-0 all-time versus VCU in that matchup as it picked up a 70-62 victory on its way to the National Championship game.
When the Bulldogs and Rams both joined the Atlantic 10 prior to this season, their late season matchup became one of the league's premier bouts of the 2012-13 slate. Neither school has failed to meet the lofty expectations associated with their respective arrivals to the conference.
Brad Stevens's Bulldogs are coming off of a 65-61 home loss to the A-10 leading Saint Louis Billikens which dropped them to a still impressive 22-6 overall record. Butler now trails SLU by two games in the conference race with two more to play after Saturday. All six of the team's losses have come to opponents inside the top 100 of the RPI and half of them have come in true road tests.
VCU accomplished a feat very few A-10 schools have done in recent history in its last outing as it overcame a 17-point deficit to defeat Xavier, 75-71, at the Cintas Center. The Musketeers had only lost once at home to a conference rival in their past 52 games prior to Shaka Smart's squad's visit. The victory lifted the Rams to a 22-6 overall record including a 10-3 A-10 standing, which puts them just one game behind SLU entering the weekend.
Rotnei Clarke tallied 13 points for Butler in its loss to the Billikens to mark the ninth straight game he has reached double figures. Clarke is posting 17 ppg on 41.5 percent shooting from the floor to help Butler net 70.2 ppg. Senior center Andrew Smith adds 11.2 points and 5.6 rebounds to the fold, while Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham both contribute 10.6 ppg. The Bulldogs have converted 43.6 percent of their field goal attempts over their past two games after being limited to 38.7 percent over their prior three outings.
VCU also has a balanced attack which is led by Trevon Graham's 15.6 points per game. Juvonte Reddic (14.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg), Troy Daniels (12.2 ppg, 40.2 percent 3PT) and Rob Brandenberg (10.7 ppg) are all significant contributors to the Rams' scoring offense of 77.4 ppg, which is the 14th highest average among Division I schools. Thanks to a very frustrating and constant full court pressure, VCU is pacing the nation with 12.1 steals per game.
The Rams are playing tough right now and will be very difficult to defeat in front of their home crowd. Butler has shown the ability to do the improbable time and time again. This one will go down to the wire as long as Butler can handle the full court pressure.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Butler 67, Virginia Commonwealth 65
03/02 10:45:30 ET