INDIANAPOLIS – Jay Bilas watches a lot of college basketball, so when he says that Butler “is good enough to be just about anybody,” fans should take that opinion pretty seriously.
Bilas was at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Friday in preparation for ESPN's College GameDay crew watching a Bulldog practice and he liked what he saw in the No. 13 Bulldogs.
Butler (15-2) will face No.8 Gonzaga (17-1) today at 9 p.m. and the game will be televised nationally as the featured game on ESPN.
Bilas' belief in Butler stems from his confidence in the Bulldogs' coach.
“He's smart,” Bilas said of Brad Stevens. “He knows the game and he sticks to his principles. He goes to practice every day with a plan. He'd be successful if he were a high school college, or pro coach. He's just a damn good coach.”
The Bulldogs could add to their already impressive resume for the NCAA Tournament committee with a win over a top 10 team. Following their 3-0 start in Atlantic 10 play, which followed an impressive out-of-league run (wins over Indiana, North Carolina, Marquette, and road wins at Northwestern and Vanderbilt); Bilas believes that Butler could make another long run through the tournament this season.
“How you do in March is largely dependent upon the path that you have,” Bilas said. “The NCAA Tournament isn't just 64 teams. It's 64 teams with a specific path. You don't have to beat everybody. You just have to win the games that are in your path and Butler has done that really well over the last several years. There's no reason to think that they couldn't do it again.”
Butler will be without its leading scorer today, as senior guard Rotnei Clarke is still recovering from an injury to his neck.
Since Clarke was injured in a fall against Dayton on a break-away lay-in, the Bulldogs have played well despite his absence.
After its comfortable 62-47 victory over Richmond earlier this week, Stevens praised his team and its ability to prepare for a difficult Spider offense to defend.
"I'm really proud of these guys,” Stevens said. “That was a great win. That's a hard team to play against. It's a hard team to prepare for. They're unique in many ways.”
Kellen Dunham will more than likely replace Clarke in the starting lineup. The freshman is averaging over 10 points per game, but struggled against Richmond. He connected on just 2 of 11 shots, including 2 of 10 from long range.