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UNDEFEATED NO MORE: Butler beats Kansas State

It’s been a couple of hours since the fighting Butler Bulldogs knocked off the Kansas State Wildcats, once again proving that a Bulldog would smoke a Wildcat in a fight (they probably wouldn’t, but I said it). There were a couple of things I noticed in this game, so in an effort to go more in-depth, here we are.

Manny Bates:

Manny Bates didn’t have a great showing in Atlantis. He was in early foul trouble in the Tennessee and NC State games and just looked gassed in the NC State game, which after playing as many minutes as he did, is natural (frankly, his conditioning was really good in Atlantis, he had to play a ton in three days).

But yesterday, he was absolutely spectacular. He was the best player on the floor for long stretches and made every big play Butler could have asked him to make. Whether it was a big offensive rebound, a huge dunk, a big block on the defensive end, drawing the defense and moving the ball, etc. Manny Bates did it. Whenever Kansas State got close, Manny Bates made sure that Butler stayed ahead. And he was able to play 39/40 minutes as a center? There isn’t much more to say. He was as close to perfect as one could be. He was truly excellent. Kansas State had no match.

Keyontae Johnson:

Keyontae Johnson is the best player on Kansas State. He’s also a complete matchup nightmare for Butler. A 6’6” physical, yet incredibly well-rounded wing is the matchup nightmare for this squad. If a wing can post up smaller Butler guards, while also being able to draw them outside and either blow by them or hit shots from deep, you are a matchup nightmare against anyone, but especially this Butler squad.

Jayden Taylor had the main assignment, with Chuck Harris and Pierce Thomas actually guarding him in spots, which really shocked me. Nobody was able to stop him. But, what I thought Butler did incredibly well was leaving Johnson on an island and just committing to shutting everyone else down. Aside from a rough start to the second half, it never felt like anyone else could get anything going on Kansas State. Butler made sure Johnson would’ve had to score like 40 points to win.

It was an excellent defensive game plan by the Bulldogs, and it worked incredibly well. It wasn't something I thought of writing a preview (wait, the high-level Big Ten champion coach knows more than the college kid writing this?? Consider me shocked!), which was why I was so adamant they go zone. Johnson was dominant in the first half, shooting 6/6 from the field good for 14 points. In the second half, they did an excellent job of denying him the ball and again, making everyone else beat him. Johnson wasn’t as aggressive (though he still finished 9/9 for 20pts) and this game plan seemed to wear him out. He finished with 5 turnovers, three of which were committed in the second half. Great game plan and great execution from this Butler team.

No Fouls, No Turnovers:

Kansas State came into this game ranked inside the Top 20 in turnovers forced and free throw percentage. Those were the two spots where Kansas State was going to beat you. Butler didn’t let them.

Kansas State came into this game shooting just under 80% from the free-throw line. 22.7% of their points came from the free-throw line, which is a staggeringly high number. Their opponents averaged over 20 fouls a game. Butler had only 9 fouls in this one, which is incredibly impressive. Kansas State shot only 3 free throws in this one, only having 3% of their points come from the free-throw line in this one.

Kansas State’s opponents no longer average over 20 fouls a game. They dropped around 40 spots nationally in this. Butler was able to effectively limit something which made Kansas State’s offense. They were able to take away what Kansas State does best. This was another showcase of excellent defense. Without knowing this ahead of time, this isn’t something I would’ve noticed but it again goes to show you just how well Butler played.

Final Thoughts:

This team is so much better at home. I’d go as far as to say the best four games this team has played are at Hinkle and the worst four weren’t. And I don’t think it’s close. We’re nearing a staggering home-road shift. That’s something to monitor going forward. There are other factors that could play a role in this (going against better teams, matchups, shorter rotation on back-to-backs, etc.), so that’s why I’m not talking in definitives, but yeah the Hinkle Advantage is real.

Myles Wilmoth dressed for this one. It was clear to me at least that they didn’t want to play him unless they had to, and he didn’t play. It means he’s pretty close to returning. From hearing a couple of conversations (almost like a mini-game of telephone) Jalen Thomas seems relatively close to returning from what I’ve heard, but that’s not confirmed at all, and his situation can change quickly. I also heard DJ Hughes could return very, very soon, maybe even as soon as the next game. Take these reports with a huge grain of salt, but this is just what I’ve gathered from talking to people around campus.

This was pretty close to a must-win. If you want to make the tournament you needed to sweep these next four games, and they won the first one. That’s a very good Yale team you play on Tuesday, and that Cal game is a lose-lose. Just get win both of those (also don’t lose to Tenn. Tech) and you’re in an alright spot entering conference play.

That’s all I’ve got. I should’ve gotten this out earlier, but I got back from the game, watched Georgetown play (always a mistake, your mood, and energy just drops substantially) and just passed out. It also didn’t help that I didn’t sleep much the day before and procrastinated on my school work, but nothing can be my fault, always blame someone/something else.

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