Brad Stevens is young but already legendary, and he has Butler in the second round again after defying the odds by taking the Bulldogs to the title game 2 of the last 3 years. Stevens had also already shattered the record for most wins for a coach in his first three years.
Butler defeated Bucknell 68-56.
Our numbers showed Bucknell with a slight edge for the upset, though we noted in the Bucknell preview “if Brad Stevens were not the opposing coach, this would really look like a clear first round win.” When Stevens won his first national semifinal game three years ago, he said the first thing he did was run to stat guru page www.kenpom.com to figure out how to beat Duke, which he came inches from doing. Thursday CNN/Sports Illustrated reported Butler is taking stat prep to a new level.
Clearly, the coach was the X-Factor that numbers could not account for.
A couple of years ago the New York Times documented how Stevens used stats to force ODU star Kent Bazemore to dribble right to shut him down, and tonight he designed double teams to make Bucknell All-American center Mike Muscala shoot left most of the time. The star big man was held to just 9 points.
Despite cold shooting by Butler, the defense was enough to hold Muscala to eight straight misses at one point. On the offensive end, leading scorer Rotnei Clark (16.7 ppg) led the way for the Bulldogs with 17 points.
Butler will advance to play the winner of Marquette-Davidson, which our analysis show will likely be a close contest favoring the #3 seeded Golden Eagles.