INDIANAPOLIS – Tuesday night was an anomaly for Butler. The Bulldogs played an Atlantic 10 Conference men's basketball game and it wasn't gut-wrenching until the end.
The 15th-ranked Bulldogs (22-5, 9-3) easily took care of league bottom-feeder Duquesne (8-18, 1-11) 68-49, which allowed for a somewhat relaxing second half.
“Don't pay attention to the results,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said. “It's so easy to hear the noise. When I watch film, I don't watch it with volume. When we watch film as a team we turn off the noise. We watch it and try to get better. And enjoy the process of that.”
Stevens' point was that his team comes ready to work hard and perform well for 40 minutes, regardless of opponent, and regardless of the margin of victory, which more often than not, isn't very large.
“I talk about how much you should love that,” Stevens said. “That's why you are here.”
Butler's average margin has been less than five points (4.6) in each league game, which could – in some programs – result in an ever-increasing stress load after two months of such activity.
Not at Butler.
“We're 22-5, we are a good basketball team,” Stevens said. “Can we get better? Yes. Do we have some tough games ahead? Absolutely. These guys have nothing to hang their head about, especially after all that they've been through in the past month.”
In the Bulldogs' 12 conference games, eight have been decided by seven or fewer points, but that builds a special trait in the Butler players according to Stevens.
“I've always believed this,” Stevens explained, “the most passionate basketball players never hit a wall. They never do. Because they love it so much and this is what they do. This is what they've worked for. We've been fortunate to have really passionate basketball players.”
That “passion” was on full display on Tuesday, which for the Dukes' coach, was unfortunate. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 36-22 halftime advantage and never relented in their effort until the game ended.
“We were significantly out-talented,” Duquesne coach Jim Ferry said. “But more so, that is one of the best defensive teams that I've seen in a long time. Butler is extremely disciplined. Our programs are at two different stages right now. Our program is not ready yet to compete with these guys here.”