Have to take a minute to give Butler some love after the Bulldogs did what they do and nothing more to knock out number one seeded Syracuse in Salt Lake City.
Seriously, this was just an average game for Butler, so don't assume they played the game of their lives to knock out the Big East beast. This wasn't Villanova playing a near-perfect game to beat Georgetown in 1985.
Butler struggled offensively much of the night, relying on a hot early hand from Shelvin Mack and some mighty fine bounces from Willie Veasley in the second half to score enough points to support the exceptional defensive effort they threw at the Orange on the other end of the court.
Of course, exceptional defense from this crew is par for the course, as well. More than anything else, this team is tough and always willing to get down and dirty regardless of how badly the program shows a physical mismatch.
Matt Howard worked his tail off in the post at both ends since he had to make Syracuse account for him in the middle of their matchup zone. Ronald Nored played 39 minutes and spent 38 of those minutes tangled up in the draw strings of Andy Rautins' shorts. Rautins found room for a few threes, but had more turnovers than threes on the night.
Pacers' potential draft target, Wes Johnson finished with 17 points and 9 rebounds but he only took 10 shots and was never able to spread his wings to impose his considerable talent on the game.
All of that defensive effort helped encourage 18 Syracuse turnovers while exposing untold amounts of frustrations from the Orange.
It also covered up a below average offensive night against the stingy 'Cuse defense. Butler only shot 35% from 3-land all year but tonight they only made 25% (6-24) of their attempts. Gordon Hayward was real quiet right up until winning time, late in the second half. Mack's fabulous 14 first-half points were all the guard would score for the rest of the game.
Then there were the missed free throws by Hayward, Mack and Veasley down the stretch that kept the Bulldogs from closing out Syracuse for good several times.
To survive all of that on the big stage against a big-time opponent has to bolster Butler's confidence for their shot at the Final Four on Saturday. I just hope the play well this time.