The Bulldogs are playing their best basketball of the season at the right time, taking a nine-game winning streak into the NCAA Tournament. Butler got the monkey off its back in the Horizon League Championship Game, going into a hostile U.S. Cellular Arena and knocking off Milwaukee, 59-44, to make sure it didn't have to sweat out Selection Sunday.
At the beginning of February, Butler was left for dead by national pundits after a 62-60 loss at Youngstown State, but came together, continued to fine-tune its defense and reel off nine straight victories. The Bullodgs' defense is not quite at the level it was at when they made their memorable fun to the national championship game in 2010, but it is continually improving - Butler has not allowed more than 65 points in the months of February and March.
Record: 23-9, 13-5 in Horizon League
RPI: 54 (kenpom)
Key wins: Florida State (Dec. 23) - W, 67-64 at Diamond Head Classic: Knocked off ACC opponent when FSU had Chris Singleton (its best player). FSU finished third in ACC. Cleveland State (three times) - Vikings finished tied with Butler for first in Horizon League, but Bulldogs picked up three top-50 RPI wins.
Washington State (Dec. 24) - W, 84-68: Pulled away from bubble team to win Diamond Head Classic.
Key losses: Youngstown State (Feb. 3) - L, 62-60: Butler allowed late YSU run to drop the game. Head coach Brad Stevens maintained that the defense was fine in that contest, and the team proved his point by going on the late-season run to the tournament title.
Player(s) to watch: Matt Howard is a three-time First Team All-League pick, leading the Dawgs with 16.7 ppg and 7.9 rpg. Howard was MVP of the League Championship, becoming the first four-time All-Tournament pick in League history. Shelvin Mack was the Preseason Player of the Year and has scored in double figures each of the last 16 games, averaging 15.3 ppg.
Need a printable NCAA bracket to fill out for the tournament? Download SB Nation's March Madness Bracket.