Butler prepares for first, probably last, Atlantic 10 tourney
Butler heads to Brooklyn Tuesday night to play in its first Atlantic 10 tournament at the Barclays Center. The Bulldogs are the fifth seed. They take on 12-seed Dayton Thursday at 2:30 p.m. in a game televised by NBC Sports Network. This is probably Butler's only Atlantic 10 tourney. The Bulldogs are expected to join the new Big East conference next season.
"You've heard speculation about the Big East," said Butler sophomore Roosevelt Jones. "We're not focused on that. We're trying to go out there and play hard and hopefully win the Atlantic 10 tournament. Whatever happens after that happens. We're worried about the moment now."
Butler would have to win four games in four days to win the A10 tourney.
"It's pretty exciting to play game after game after game," said Butler junior Khyle Marshall. "That's the thing that all athletes look forward to is definitely the games."
Butler (24-7) won 79-73 at Dayton (17-13) on January 12. Butler's leading scorer, Rotnei Clarke, suffered a severely sprained neck on a hard fall during that game. Clarke crashed into the basket standard after being fouled on a break-away lay-up attempt. He was taken off the court on a stretcher and missed Butler's next three games.
"They're a real physical team," said Jones. "We need to make sure we get them off the boards. Last time everybody stepped up. We've got to make sure we do that again even when (Rotnei's) playing with us."
Butler finished 11-5 in the A10, in a three way tie for 3rd place. But tiebreakers favored third seed Temple and fourth seed La Salle and dropped Butler to the 5th seed. That means no bye for the Bulldogs.
"This league's depth has been well chronicled," said Butler coach Brad Stevens. "Somebody with all the tiebreakers had to finish with all these different seeds. You knew you were going to play a good team. I've said all year that (seeds) one through twelve can win this thing."
If Butler wins Thursday, the Bulldogs will play again Friday at 2:30 p.m. against La Salle.
Butler University is on spring break, which allows the team to focus completely on basketball.
"It's a perfect time to practice," said Stevens. "You get to eat meals together. You get to spend a lot more time together."