While Cleveland State (21-11, 13-6) has had a surprising, uplifting and topsy-turvy season, Butler (28-3, 17-2) has been consistently strong, as was expected after last year's 29 win season where they reached the Sweet 16 for the second time in the past five seasons. Butler's only losses were on the road at defending Horizon League champ Wright State (where they also lost twice last season), the aforementioned Drake tilt, and to Cleveland State in C-town.
When the Vikings made the return visit to Indy in mid-Februrary, the teams combined for just 97 pts with Butler holding off CSU for a five point win. Butler also uncharacteristically made barely half of their 20 free throws. Nothing really indicates that tonight's game will be an easy win for the favored Bulldogs, who have won 37 of their past 40 home games.
If Butler has been consistent and pedestrian this year, Cleveland State has been the Horizon League's Drake.
Picked to finish, as they have for much of the past decade, in the lower half of the league, CSU won 20 regular season games, and was undefeated in conference and leading the Horizon until late January when they dropped five straight---four of those on the road consecutively though. But the Vikings rebounded with wins in seven of their last eight, including an impressive triumph over Valparaiso in the semifinals three days ago. Cleveland State's only loss in the past five weeks was at Butler.
Tonight should be excellent, indeed. Game is 9pm EDT on ESPN.
Posted by Ari