This isn't going to be the magical trip the Bahamas the Bulldogs were hoping for. The Butler Bulldogs joined in on the poor early season start for the Big East by falling to Dayton 69-64 in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Sean McDermott and Paul Jorgensen each had 18 points while Kamar Baldwin added 11 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds in a losing effort.
Defense Was Sloppy Early
Butler looked completely overmatched defensively to begin the ballgame. Dayton seemed like they knew exactly what Butler was going to do and were prepared to take exactly what they wanted from it. Butler's rotations were either way too late or way too early and there were multiple miscommunications that led to easy Dayton baskets. Butler actually jumped out to a hot shooting start themselves but just couldn't keep pace. Butler made the necessary adjustments and held the Flyers to only 0.87 points per possession in the second half, but the damage was already done, and the Bulldogs didn't have the offense to climb out of the early hole.
The Game Honors Toughness
This term normally refers to Butler's style of play, but the script was flipped against them tonight. Butler struggled offensively because Dayton was the tougher defensive team. The officials allowed for a physical game, and only one team took advantage of that. Butler guards were being pressured on every drive to the basket and didn't appear to handle it particularly well. They frequently saw hard hedges and traps out of ball screens to force them to give up the ball. It's going to be interesting to see if future opponents use this as a blueprint for how to slow down Butler's perimeter attack. Butler could really use another ball handler who can create off the dribble and allow Baldwin to spend more time freeing himself up away from the ball. Thompson is likely the only one capable of handling that, and he spent most of the night on the bench in foul trouble.
Bulldogs Won The Possession Battle
It felt like the Bulldogs got outplayed badly all night, but that's not actually the case. Dayton came in ranked #1 in the country in defensive rebounding, yet the Bulldogs grabbed 12 offensive rebounds while only surrendering 6 of their own. Butler also won the turnover battle 16-10. Those factors combined to help Butler take 14 more field goal attempts than Dayton. Normally that's a great recipe for success. Unfortunately the Dawgs couldn't do anything with those extra attempts, shooting only 40% from the floor, 30% from behind the arc, and 53% from the free throw line. Butler really struggled to get good looks for an extended period late in the first half, and that surely didn't help their shooting percentages, but for much of the night they simply couldn't knock down a jump shot. Everything looks bad when shots aren't going in.
It's Not Time To Panic
The natural fan reaction to a team's first loss is to overreact about everything that went wrong. There's no reason to do that. Butler's initial defense was certainly alarming, but they got better as the game went on and actually played solid defense in the second half. In the end it was simply shooting woes that doomed Butler. Kamar Baldwin probably isn't going to shoot 5-17 on most nights, and Butler certainly isn't going to shoot 53% from the line very often. Baldwin has to be better, and he will be better. Butler isn't the first and won't be the last team to shoot poorly in the Atlantis ballroom. It's a small temporary gym with blue lighting as a backdrop to make it look like it's underwater. Butler is not a team without flaws, but it's way to early to get too worked up over an early season loss like this.