VCU approaches perfection in rout of Butler

RICHMOND — VCU ambushed Florida Gulf Coast, Winthrop and Stetson in November. Come December, the Rams ravaged Western Kentucky, Longwood and Fairleigh Dickinson. Since New Year's, East Tennessee State, Duquesne and George Washington have drowned in the tidal wave of Shaka Smart's full-court defense.

But this was March, and this was Butler.

This was college basketball's defining month and one of its finest programs, teams and coaches.

VCU 84, Butler 52.


Get the Baltimore Football app for iPhone and Android

The demolition on Broad Street was complete and lasted from opening tip to final horn.

"We can over-analyze it all we want, but the bottom line is we couldn't do anything well," Bulldogs coach Brad Stevens said after the most lopsided defeat in his six seasons as a head coach.

The "anything" is no embellishment, and they couldn't because of VCU.

Rattled throughout, Butler couldn't defend, shoot, pass or dribble. Heck, the Bulldogs struggled mightily just to get the ball inbounds, pitching away at least four such passes.

Understand that Butler is ranked 21st nationally. The Bulldogs may not be as good as their 2010 and '11 editions that reached the national championship game, but they have beaten Marquette, North Carolina, Indiana and Gonzaga.

"Nobody's coming in here today and winning," Stevens said. "Now we didn't play well enough to even make it a game, so that's (another) story."

Rarely, if ever, in Stevens' tenure has Butler been dominated like Saturday. The Rams opened with a 9-2 binge and led by at least 14 points for the final 30 minutes.

The afternoon's most telling stat was points off turnovers: VCU 34, Butler 2.

The Rams harassed the Bulldogs into a season-worst 23 turnovers while committing only eight. They converted those giveaways into easy layups, circus dunks and NBA 3-pointers.

"It just shows our team, and our guys individually, how good we can be when we're locked in on the plan," Smart said.

Granted, the Rams (23-6, 11-3 Atlantic 10) were fueled by a 34th consecutive home sellout and memories of a 2011 Final Four loss to the Bulldogs (22-7, 9-5). But even on a neutral floor in the NCAA tournament, against an unfamiliar foe, VCU, if it can merely approach Saturday, will be a load.

Wing Troy Daniels scored a game-high 20 points and made four 3-pointers. Point guard Darius Theus contributed nine assists, eight points, five steals and two blocked shots. Defensive ace Briante Weber added 11 points, his most since mid-December.

"As deep as the matchups dictate," Stevens said of the Rams' postseason prospects. "Very few teams are going to beat these guys on one-day prep if they win the first one. … Their athleticism on the perimeter is incredible. … That's the fastest team we've played."

In that regard, VCU basketball is like Oregon football. The Rams' speed, and the pace at which they play, are almost impossible to simulate in practice. Watching tape is fine, but it can't convey the full experience.

"Have Weber and Theus stand in front of you while you're typing your article and just swipe at your computer constantly and see if the article gets done," Stevens said as the assembled keyboard jockeys laughed.

VCU exacted its greatest toll on Butler's best players. Guard Rotnei Clarke missed 6-of-8 shots and scored five points, 12 below his average. Center Andrew Smith managed six points, barely half his norm.

Most telling: Stevens played Clarke and Smith only four minutes each after halftime.

The Rams led 45-21 at intermission, and the Bulldogs already had 14 turnovers, more than they'd committed in 14 complete games. A brief flurry drew Butler within 45-28, but after a Smart timeout, VCU returned to overdrive.

"It's going to boil down to, to beat that team, you're going to have to get stops," Stevens said. "Nobody's going to beat them when they're scoring."

Indeed, scoring allows VCU to set up its press. And when VCU presses, "HAVOC," as they like to call it here, ensues.

The Rams conclude their regular season next week with a home game versus Richmond — the Spiders won the city rivals' first meeting — and a trip to Temple. Then it's off to what figures to be a compelling A-10 tournament in Brooklyn, N.Y., where league-leading Saint Louis will face a host of challengers, none more capable than VCU.

"Shoot," Theus said, "I wish we could play like we did tonight every night."

David Teel can be reached at 757-247-4636 or by email at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/ teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP

PHOTO GALLERIES