#1 Hoosiers fall to Butler
The upset may have been surprising for some to see - an unranked mid-major Butler team playing against the #1 ranked Hoosier team that had grown accustomed to blowing teams out thus far. Not only was this IU's first loss, but it was the first game that was within ten points (though an early win against Georgetown in overtime was closer than the 10 point margin indicated). But those who have watched both teams closely may not have been quite as surprised. While IU has not been challenged for the most part, Butler has competed in several tough, close games.
Butler was able to do what they have been doing since Coach Brad Stevens took over and has led them to two final game appearances in the NCAA Tournament. They played against a more talented, big-conference school and neutralized them. They made it an ugly, physical game and were able to dictate the tempo to a large extent. Neither team shot particularly well; IU shot 42.9% from the field, well under their usual ~65%.
The game was close throughout with neither team gaining a significant advantage. At half IU led 37-33, but they had forced some turnovers and you got the feeling they were going to be able to pull away in the second half. This seemed even more likely as two key players from Butler, Andrew Smith and Roosevelt Jones, got into foul trouble early on in the second half. But Butler managed to hang around.
With only a few minutes to go, Butler led by seven points and looked to be in the driver's seat to close out the game. IU then led a furious comeback that was fueled largely by their intense defense. Victor Oladipo was the catalyst for much of that frenzy, but it was capped off when Yogi Ferrell hit an unlikely 3-point shot to tie the game with about six seconds remaining. The Bulldogs ran the length of the court and got a great look at a 3-point shot that clanked out, forcing the game into overtime.
With two of Butler's key players having fouled out in the final minutes of regulation and another with four fouls, it seemed that overtime would favor the Hoosiers in a big way. Instead, they found themselves unable to pull away as Butler continued to hang within a basket. Butler then hit back to back three point shots to put themselves ahead and continued to make free throws down the stretch to maintain a slight edge. Again, Indiana managed to tie the game with just under 20 seconds remaining in overtime. Both teams knew Butler would have an opportunity for the last shot, but there were probably very few people expecting Alex Barlow to take that final shot for the 'Dawgs. He drove to the lane and came to a jump stop about five feet from the basket and looked like he wanted to kick the ball out to an open shooter. When he saw there were no open shooters, he gave a head fake and took a turn around shot of his own that bounced through with just 2.3 seconds remaining. This happened with Cody Zeller on the bench, a decision that Tom Crean will certainly take some heat for - why take out the seven-foot player of the year who could have potentially protected the rim on defense... The Hoosiers used their final timeout and Hulls was able to get off a half court shot, but it never had a chance.
It was an extremely exciting game from start to finish and certainly an upset. But Butler is much better than a non-ranked mid-major, and IU was not firing on all cylinders. Butler has proved again and again that they are more than capable of playing with - and beating - the "big time" teams, the Goliaths of college basketball.
Does this mean that Butler has a better team or that IU is doomed? No. It's mid-December. Butler played better and won on this day, but IU still has a great team - probably one of the deepest teams in the country. But this should serve as a wake up call for the players and the coaching staff. Both need some fine-tuning...better now in December than March.