At the start of this season uncertainty surrounded my mind for the Butler Bulldogs.
Not because of the coaching staff or the talent on this current roster, but because of the tough competition that makes up this new Big East conference.
This led to my radical notions that the Bulldogs would struggle to gain a berth in the NCAA Tournament due to this toughness.
However, as most know, when it comes to making the tourney, it’s all about who you beat.
The stronger the opponent, the more the win matters when the selection committee makes its decisions in March.
That being said, Butler has a golden chance to add an early exclamation point to its resume this afternoon.
Old Spice Classic Semi-Final
The #5 Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Far and away the strongest opponent seen to date in the Brandon Miller Era, the Cowboys will challenge every inch of Butler’s young guards with arguably the best front court in the country, (Marcus Smart and Markel Brown).
Despite this, the Bulldogs carry all sorts of momentum following its hard fought victory against Washington State on Thursday.
Specifically speaking, the momentum stems from the phenomenal performances by Kellen Dunham and Khyle Marshall.
The duo combined for 62 of Butler’s 76 points on 21 of Butler’s 27 made field goals in the 76-69 win over Washington State. In addition, Dunham netted the Old Spice single game scoring record with his 32 points.
After this breakout game for the Bulldogs, the question that remains is whether or not an encore performance is the only way for them to upset the Cowboys.
In my opinion, no.
Yes, it will be critical for the Bulldogs to utilize Dunham and Marshall at all costs, but Butler has other quality players on the roster in the form of Kameron Woods and Elijah Brown to name of few.
The main area of concern for Butler will be on the defensive end.
Butler allowed Washington State to post 69 points on an impressive 50% shooting from the field.
Going up against a Cowboys unit that is second in the country in points per game, (100.2), and 18th in field goal percentage (51%), the Bulldogs will need to be clicking on all cylinders to pull of the stunner.
Win or lose, this is matchup a blessing in disguise for Butler.
Lose, and the Bulldogs have a learning experience to build on for the rest of the season.
Win, and a signature victory is instantly added to its tournament resume.
Either way, the stage is set for an exciting Black Friday contest.