Butler’s non-conference opponents earn NCAA spots

Butler entered the 2012-2013 season with one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation.

The Bulldogs fared well outside Atlantic 10 Conference play, going 12-2 in non-conference games, including the Nov. 13 loss to Xavier that was considered a non-conference contest.

Five of Butler’s non-conference opponents were selected for the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.

The Bulldogs went a combined 4-1 against these five teams.

Let’s take a look at the résumés of these five squads as they enter the tournament.

Marquette Golden Eagles
23-8, 14-4 Big East | East No. 3 seed
Butler defeated Marquette 72-71 on a Rotnei Clarke buzzer beater in the quarterfinals of the Maui Invitational Nov. 19.

Since then, the Golden Eagles finished in a three-way tie for the Big East regular season title with No. 1 overall seed Louisville and No. 2 seed Georgetown.

Marquette was ranked 15th in the final AP Top 25 poll of the season and 16th in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

The Bulldogs could potentially play the Golden Eagles in the third round of the tournament if they beat Bucknell and Marquette defeats No. 14 seed Davidson.

Marquette went 6-7 against eventual tournament teams in the regular season.

North Carolina Tar Heels
24-10, 12-6 ACC | South No. 8 seed
Butler shocked then-ninth-ranked North Carolina 82-71 in the Maui Invitational semifinals Nov. 20.

The Tar Heels finished third in the ACC behind No. 2 seed Miami (FL) and No. 2 seed Duke.

North Carolina was a mere 2-8 against eventual tournament teams during the regular season, with their only wins coming at home against

North Carolina State and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

North Carolina faces No. 9 seed Villanova in the second round Friday.

Illinois Fighting Illini
22-12, 8-10 Big Ten | East No. 7 seed
Illinois knocked off Butler in the Maui Invitational Championship 78-61 on its way to a 12-0 start to the regular season.

The Fighting Illini handed No. 1 seed Gonzaga its first of only two regular-season losses, stunning the Zags on their home court 85-74 on Dec. 8.

Illinois’ strong start did not translate well to Big Ten play, as it often struggled and suffered bad losses to Purdue, Northwestern and Iowa.

However, the Illini provided one of the most thrilling finishes of the season by defeating top-ranked Indiana on a layup at the buzzer Feb. 7.

Illinois went 6-9 against eventual tournament squads in the regular season.

The Illini take on No. 10 seed Colorado in the second round Friday.

Indiana Hoosiers
27-6, 14-4 Big Ten | East No. 1 seed
Indiana entered the season as the top-ranked team in the country and began the year 9-0 until Butler handed the Hoosiers their first loss on Dec. 15.

The Bulldogs’ 88-86 overtime victory proved to be one of the most memorable games of the season.

Indiana has remained a national-title contender throughout the season with the play of junior guard Victor Oladipo and sophomore forward Cody Zeller.

Zeller leads the Hoosiers with 16.9 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game. Oladipo averaged 13.6 points per game and 2.2 steals per game.

Indiana had a winning record of 9-6 against eventual tournament teams in the regular season.

The Hoosiers will meet the winner of Long Island University-Brooklyn and James Madison in the second round Friday.

Gonzaga Bulldogs
31-2, 16-0 WCC| West No. 1 seed
Gonzaga ended the regular season with the best record in the NCAA and the top spot in the final AP Top 25 poll and USA Today Coaches Poll of the season.

The Bulldogs enter the NCAA tournament with a 14-game winning streak.

The team’s last loss came at Hinkle Fieldhouse when Butler defeated then-eighth-ranked Gonzaga on a Roosevelt Jones buzzer beater.

Standout junior forward Kelly Olynyk led the Bulldogs with 17.5 points per game and finished second on the team in rebounding with 7.2 per contest.

Gonzaga played strongly against eventual tournament teams in the regular season, going 8-2 versus those opponents.

The Bulldogs play No. 16 seed Southern University in the second round Thursday.

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