Up next in the Diamond Head Classic are the Butler Bulldogs (7-4), runner up in the 2009-10 NCAA tournament. Butler is playing their best basketball at the right time, having beat up good Stanford and Utah squads in their last two outings. Butler has one slip up (home loss to Evansville), and has otherwise played solid basketball. They haven’t beat anyone as good as FSU – but the Noles haven't beaten anyone as good as Butler.
Coach Brad Stevens brings his shuffle offense which hasn't lost a step despite losing Gordon Hayward to the NBA. In Hayward’s absence, Center Matt Howard is once again the focus and has rebounded from a mediocre junior season to be Butler’s best player. He’s currently the 11th most efficient player in the country, and the best player the Seminoles have faced this season. He's certainly not the prettiest, nor is he the highest draft pick, but at the college level he's remarkably productive. He makes his shots, draws fouls at an alarming rate, and knocks down his free throws. He’s also added the 3pt shot to his repertoire, and is currently shooting 46%. Howard has led his team in scoring in 7 of the last 8 games. The Bulldogs also have a future NBA pick in SG Shelvin Mack, as well as one of the premier defensive PGs in the country in Ronald Nored.
The difference between this year and last year’s club is defense. Without Hayward and Willie Veasley they no longer force turnovers, and their subs are much more likely to commit fouls. They also don’t generate many steals. They do play solid pressure defense, and like FSU all their players have to be able to defend at least two dribbles on the perimeter. If they can't, they don't get recruited. Butler's switch and help defense looks a lot like FSU.
Vegas gives a slight edge to FSU, as the line is Noles -1.5. Pomeroy has this one as a coin flip.
The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2 at 10pm EST.