The Butler Bulldogs have put together two of the most impressive NCAA tournament runs in back to back seasons. The Bulldogs sent the VCU Rams back to Richmond to the tune of a 70-62 victory. VCU forward Jamie Skeen led all scorers with 27 points, but it wasn't enough to overcome a consistent Butler attack that relied on a combination of rebounding and outside shooting. The Bulldogs were led by their tandem of stars, Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard. Mack hit clutch shots in the second half and always kept the Rams at bay, finishing with 24 points. Howard was a force inside grabbing 8 rebounds and adding 17 points of his own.
The first half was a tightly contested affair that saw the Bulldogs take a six point, 34-28 lead into the locker room. That was nothing to VCU who scored the first seven points of the second half to take a one point lead. The first ten minutes of second half play continued in similar fashion, with each team trading baskets and the lead. At that point, it seemed obvious that this was to be a tightly contested affair the rest of the way.
At the second half's midway point Butler opened up a seven point lead, putting the Rams in a position they hadn't been familiar with: trailing by seven. Shelvin Mack was crucial to the Bulldog's taking control of the action scoring ten straight points. The Bulldogs had an opportunity to put the game away, but a clutch three by Rams star Jamie Skeen cut the Butler lead to 4. It was the closest the Rams would ever get., as ill-advised shots and turnovers kept the momentum on the side of Butler, who appeared better suited to a one-possesion, grind 'em out basketball game.
The Bulldogs advance to their second straight National Championship Game, which is an incredible feat considering we're talking about a team from the Horizon League. I get the feeling that this year may have a different outcome for Brad Stevens, Shelvin Mack, Matt Howard and company.