MILWAUKEE, Wis. -- The most competitive year in recent Horizon League history will come to an end on Tuesday night, when No.1 Milwaukee and No. 2 Butler meet in the championship game at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. For the sixth time in eight years, the top two seeds will meet for the conference's crown.
Butler (22-9) enters the game at U.S. Cellular Arena on a nine-game winning streak, with its last loss coming on Feb. 3; Milwaukee (19-12) lost its BracketBusters contest on Feb. 19 but has downed the last 10 Horizon League opponents it has encountered. The Panthers swept the regular-season series from the Bulldogs, snapping Butler's 22-game conference winning streak with an emphatic 76-52 win on Jan. 3 before outlasting the Dawgs at Hinkle Fieldhouse, 86-80, in overtime on Jan. 23.
The victory in Indianapolis was the first of nine straight League wins that vaulted Milwaukee to the No. 1 seed in the Horizon League Championship; meanwhile, the loss was first of a three-game skid for Butler that ultimately galvanized the team and led to the present nine-game run to the League title game and consideration as an at-large team for the NCAA Tournament.
Both teams boast All-League honorees, with First Team picks Matt Howard and Anthony Hill clashing in the post for the Bulldogs and Panthers, respectively. Each player paced his team in scoring, with Howard collecting 16.7 points and 7.9 boards, with Hill posting 15.6 points and 6.5 caroms. The senior went over the 1,000-point mark in Saturday's win over Valparaiso, finishing with a game-high 24 to reach 1,001 in his career.
For Milwaukee, Kaylon Williams has run the point effectively, earning all-newcomer team honors while handing out 5.5 assists per contest. Those helpers and Hill's presence on the block has helped Tony Boyle and Tony Meier shine, as each is averaging over 10 ppg.
Just as last year, Shelvin Mack ranks second on Butler in scoring, having finished in double figures in each of his last 15 games to raise his season average to 15.3 ppg. Shawn Vanzant was the key to the Bulldogs' semifinal win over Cleveland State, scoring all 18 of his points in the final 13 minutes of play.
The teams have met twice in the Horizon League Championship Game, with Milwaukee holding a 2-0 advantage, capturing the League's NCAA automatic bid in 2003 and 2006 at the expense of Butler. Current head coaches Rob Jeter and Brad Stevens were on the bench for both of those contests, with Jeter serving as an assistant in the 95-76 win in 2003 and holding the head job in the 87-71 2006 triumph. Stevens was an assistant for both clashes and has taken Butler to four straight championship games since taking over the helm, holding a 2-1 mark in those games.
Overall, Butler has reached the League title game a record-tying six straight years and is looking to break the record of six tournament titles that it presently shares with Xavier.
Bob Wischusen and Stephen Bardo have the call of the game at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. A near-sellout crowd is expected of U.S. Cellular Arena for what shapes up to be a classic battle for the right to carry the Horizon League flag into the NCAA Tournament.
Tags: Butler - Men's Basketball · Horizon League - Men's Basketball · Milwaukee - Men's Basketball