Team Profile: 2008 BracketBuster Recap: Drake 71, Butler 64

by Rob Carpentier | February 24th, 2008

When Drake played Butler on Saturday at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, there was little drama regarding whether either of these teams was facing “Bubble” issues with the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. This game was clearly about seeding. The marquee game of BracketBuster weekend lived up to the hype.

In a game that made virtually every sequence crucial, the Drake Bulldogs were able to pull out the victory against the Butler Bulldogs, 71-64. In terms of excitement, this game had it all; acrobatic plays, smart decisions, hot shooting, intense fans and even controversy at the end. With the score at 64-61 in favor of Drake and with 20 seconds left, Drake sophomore Josh Young was about to attempt an off-balance three point shot as the shot clock was about to expire. Butler senior guard Mike Green has his arm somewhere in the vicinity of Young’s waist and was called for a three-shot foul as Young elevated. That call, and the subsequent foul shots, finally iced the game for Drake.

Athleticism and team intelligence dictated the outcome of this game.

As the first half wore on, it was clear the Drake was the more athletic team. In fact, it took 50% shooting on Butler’s part in the first half just to go into the dressing room down by only three. Drake almost always had a player get to a 50/50 ball first; Drake was the more physical team; Drake’s defenders were able to recover more quickly.

In particular, Butler senior guard A.J. Graves, who is not exactly slow, couldn’t stay with Drake senior point guard Adam Emmenecker on defense. Emmenecker is arguably the least athletic player in Drake’s starting line-up. That athleticism allowed Drake to conserve more energy and would explain why Butler looked the more tired and harried team at the end of the game.

The game’s signature play was all about athleticism. When Drake senior guard/forward Klayton Korver threw up what appeared to be a 37 foot three point attempt and had it grabbed by 6’3” senior guard Leonard Houston’s left hand about two feet above the rim, that showed some serious athleticism. However, when Houston proceeded to throw the ball through the hoop with his body at an awkward angle, everyone in the gym knew that butler had no one on their roster who could counter that kind of athleticism.

Intelligence is what kept Butler in the game and ultimately was their undoing. Offensively, Butler faced a 1-2-2 zone that was a bit tougher than any defense that they had yet seen this season. It forced Butler to be crisp with their passing and smart with their shots, which they were. But many Butler passes that were even slightly off the mark led to turnovers.

Butler was clearly used to playing in this type of intense game, but they seemed to be the ones running around defensively, while Drake simply stayed with what they knew until it began wearing Butler down. As the game wore on and Butler became more tired, they made more and more questionable decisions. When that happened, Butler’s advantage in shooting percentage was gone.

The game was as tight as expected, with both teams going 24-for-54 from the floor. Butler hit one more three point shot, while Drake hit 8 more free throws, even though they only had 4 more free throw attempts. Drake had six more rebounds but also more turnovers.

Due to the parity of the numbers, the only thing that really sets these two teams apart is the outcome of the game. Both are looking at anywhere from a 4-7 seed in the Big Dance. The bottom line is that both teams will play in the NCAAs and they both will be “home” teams in their first game. As a result of the game, Drake still has the opportunity to gain a “protected” seed; Butler, in all likelihood, does not.

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