Commentary

How to beat the Butler Bulldogs

VCU needs to push the tempo and force turnovers to advance to the title game

Updated: March 29, 2011, 1:57 PM ET
By Joe Lunardi | ESPN Insider
Butler Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireSpeed is the key to beating Butler.

In an NCAA tournament full of surprises, Butler still holds an important distinction among the Final Four survivors: The Bulldogs have gone the longest without losing. This is not insignificant when one considers that Kentucky (10), Connecticut (nine) and Virginia Commonwealth (five) have won a combined 24 games in a row.

The Bulldogs, though, haven't fallen since an inexplicable three-game losing streak concluded Feb. 3 at Youngstown State. Since then, Butler has reeled off 13 victories in a row -- not nearly as impressive as the 24-game winning streak it toted into last year's Final Four, but still pretty impressive considering the staggering unpredictability of the 2011 season and tournament.

Looking back at their nine losses, a pattern similar to 2010 emerges. All but three of their conquerors forced Butler to play at a faster pace than Brad Stevens prefers. The Bulldogs average a pedestrian 64.6 possessions per game (270th in Division I), so they were particularly ill-equipped when Louisville (84 possessions), Duke (72 possessions), Milwaukee (76, second meeting) and Valparaiso (73, second meeting) upped the tempo against them.


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Joe Lunardi | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com