Matt Howard’s biggest problem for the Butler Bulldogs is simply staying on the court. The talented forward is tough inside but his constant foul trouble has forced the team to put him on the bench for stretches.
Last season, Howard fouled out of nine basketball games, and picked up four fouls 13 more times. This season however, he’s been markedly better, and has only fouled out four times. That discipline has allowed him to average a career high 31 minutes a night, as well as a career best 16.7 points and 7.7 rebounds a game.
He’s also added the outside shot to his game, hitting 48 three-pointers this year after making just five his previous two seasons. So far in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Howard has averaged 15.5 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. Perhaps more importantly, however, he’s only committed four fouls, allowing him to play 71 of a possible 80 minutes.
This is a massive upgrade from last season’s tournament, when he was held in single-digits for points in four consecutive games but, of course, that Butler team managed to come inches away from winning a national title, even with Howard contributing next to nothing offensively. Now that he’s become a more consistent inside scoring threat, the Bulldogs have a new-found weapon in their march towards a second straight Final Four appearance.