Three Thoughts On Butler’s Win Over Marquette

Posted by WCarey on January 19th, 2014

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report following Saturday’s game in Indianapolis between Marquette and Butler.

Butler entered Saturday’s home contest with Marquette needing a victory in the worst way. The Bulldogs’ first season in the Big East got off to a disastrous start with five consecutive losses to Villanova, Xavier, DePaul, Georgetown, and Creighton. Marquette also entered the afternoon with something to prove. The Golden Eagles were picked to win the Big East in the preseason, but they entered Hinkle Fieldhouse with a pedestrian 2-2 conference record and a very disappointing 10-7 overall mark. In a game where Marquette seemingly had control in the early second half, Butler came roaring back to force overtime where the Bulldogs outscored the Golden Eagles 20-8 on their way to a 69-57 victory. The following are three thoughts from Saturday afternoon’s game in Indy.

Butler guard Alex Barlow, right, and Marquette guard Derrick Wilson fight for a loose ball in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Indianapolis, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Butler guard Alex Barlow, right, and Marquette guard Derrick Wilson fight for a loose ball in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Indianapolis, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

  1. Butler Shored Up Its Defensive Effort. Butler’s defense in its first five conference game was a disaster. The Bulldogs were giving up a league-worst 82.4 points per game, while allowing their opponents to shoot a league-worst 51% from the field. Saturday was a different story for the Bulldogs, as they looked like a completely different team on that end of the court. Following a first half where they allowed Marquette to shoot just 40% from the field, the Bulldogs brought up their defensive intensity another notch in the second half. The Golden Eagles were limited to just 17 second half points on a woeful 18.5% from the field. Butler’s defense carried its intensity over to the overtime period where it allowed Marquette to score only eight points on 3-of-8 from the field. After allowing opponents to shoot 51% from the field over its first five conference games, Butler held Marquette to just 30.8% from the field over the course of Saturday’s game. Read the rest of this entry »
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Three Thoughts on Georgetown’s Win Over Butler

Posted by Walker Carey on January 12th, 2014

Butler came into Saturday night’s game in dire need of a victory. The Bulldogs entered with an 0-3 Big East record and they had hit a low point Thursday night when they allowed lowly DePaul to leave Hinkle Fieldhouse with an overtime victory. Georgetown also entered the contest needing for a win. The Hoyas struggled mightily in their first road conference game on Wednesday, falling at Providence, 70-52. Georgetown also experienced some personnel issues in the past week with center Joshua Smith unavailable due to an academic issue and forward Jabril Trawick suffering a broken jaw in Wednesday’s loss. As it turned out, Georgetown was able to overcome its depth issues and hand Butler yet another overtime loss in a 70-67 Hoyas’ victory. The following are three thoughts from Saturday night’s game in Indy.

John Thompson III Has His Hoyas Playing At A High Level (Getty)

John Thompson III Has His Hoyas Playing At A High Level. (Getty)

  1. Georgetown’s Perseverance Was Impressive: Already with Smith and Trawick unavailable, Georgetown’s frontcourt battled foul trouble all night long. Starting forwards Nate Lubick and Mikael Hopkins and reserve big man Moses Ayegba were all disqualified before the final buzzer sounded. The Hoyas refused to use that as a hindrance, though, as they were able to seamlessly shuffle in senior forward Aaron Bowen, freshman forward Reggie Cameron, and former walk-on John Caprio to pick up the slack left by their fouled-out veterans. The Hoyas also persevered in the final minute when it looked like Butler was going to escape with a victory, but senior guard Markel Starks nailed a clutch three-pointer with 14 seconds remaining to tie the game at 60 and ultimately send it to the extra period. Read the rest of this entry »
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Conference Play Already Delivering Unexpected Drama

Posted by Bennet Hayes on January 11th, 2014

We may still be in the nascent period of conference play, but early developments have hinted that a number of league races may not play out as planned. Heading into another good college basketball weekend, here are a few of the more surprising twists supplied by the early days of conference action.

The American Athletic Conference Is Up For Grabs

Remember when Louisville was supposed to be head and shoulders above the rest of this conference? Or when UConn was the Cards’ only real competition for the inaugural AAC crown? Yeah, me neither. Rick Pitino’s team may still be the AAC favorites, but after a non-conference season featuring just one victory over a top-100 team, the recent dismissal of Chane Behanan, and Thursday night’s home loss to Memphis, it’s safe to say that the Cardinals’ grasp on pole position has been significantly weakened. As for the Huskies, an ugly 0-2 beginning to conference play (losses at Houston and SMU) has altered the trajectory of their season. Shabazz Napier and company should be able to handle UCF later today, but with a trip to Memphis and a home date with Louisville looming next week, a 1-4 start to conference play is a definite possibility. It’s not the AAC we expected to see, certainly, but this unforeseen parity could give the league one of the better, more entertaining conference races the rest of the way.

It's Early, But Russ Smith And The Cardinals Have Unexpected Company In Their Chase For The American Athletic Conference Crown

It’s Early, But Russ Smith And The Cardinals Have Unexpected Company In Their Chase For The American Athletic Conference Crown

Butler Still Seeking Its First Big East Win

Expectations were initially modest for Butler this season, but a non-conference campaign with just a pair of minor blemishes – two-point losses to Oklahoma State and LSU – gave hope that the transitions between coaches (Brad Stevens to Brandon Miller) and leagues (A-10 to Big East) might be smoother than expected. Not so much, however, as the Big East has so far proved daunting for the Bulldogs, dropping their first three games: on the road at Xavier, and home games to Villanova and (gasp!) DePaul. Three total overtime periods were needed for those two home defeats, but no number of extra sessions will excuse a loss to DePaul, a program that was 7-86 in the five-plus Big East seasons that preceded their successful trip to Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs are better than that Big East record would indicate, but a brutal upcoming schedule has the potential to permanently sink the Butler ship. Georgetown visits Indianapolis tonight, and 11 of the 12 games that follow come against teams in Ken Pom’s current top-75. At least for a season, the Butler faithful may end up missing not only Brad Stevens, but also the Atlantic 10.

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Butler Off to a Rough Start in its Inaugural Big East Season

Posted by Walker Carey on January 10th, 2014

Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday evening’s tilt between DePaul and Butler in Indianapolis.

Butler‘s meteoric rise from the Horizon League to the Big East in just two years has been well-documented. While it is great to discuss how the little school from Indianapolis was able to conquer some of the country’s national powers and sustain the success that predicated the conference ascension, Butler is now in the Big East and it is now appropriate to discuss what the Bulldogs have to do in their new league to carry on the past success. After last night’s loss to DePaul in a double-overtime game where the Bulldogs gave up an 11-point lead in the final minutes of regulation, Butler sits at 0-3 in conference play and is wondering what has gone wrong.

Heads are Hanging at Butler after an 0-3 Start (AP)

Heads are Hanging at Butler after an 0-3 Start (AP)

In the preseason, Butler was viewed as an unknown commodity and was subsequently picked ninth in the Big East preseason poll. It had a new head coach in Brandon Miller and its top returnee – Roosevelt Jones – was lost for the season with a wrist injury suffered over the summer. Once the season began, the Bulldogs appeared to be better than advertised during the non-conference slate. Despite finishing 1-2 at the Old Spice Classic in late November, the Bulldogs played well in all three games – including a two-point loss to preseason top 10 Oklahoma State, and a two-point overtime loss to an LSU squad that entered the season with high expectations. If you removed the three games in Orlando, the Bulldogs went a perfect 10-0 in non-conference play. Along the way, sophomore guard Kellen Dunham and senior forward Khyle Marshall began to emerge as a legitimate high-low combination with standout potential.

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RTC Big East Microsite Week in Review

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 8th, 2014

After a bit of a holiday-induced hiatus, the week in review is back! We are in the infancy of the Big East basketball season, but the conference is beginning to take shape. Big East microsite writers Jameson Fleming, George Hershey and I bring you this week’s power rankings, all-conference team, and player and freshman of the week.

Villanova is Reaching for #1 in Our Power Rankings

Villanova is Reaching for #1 in Our Power Rankings

Player of the Week: Doug McDermott: We should probably rename this the “Doug McDermott Player of the Week Award.”  I would love to see someone else here, but then McDermott went out and scored 30 against Seton Hall and only 19 against DePaul.

Freshman of the Week: Josh Hart: The Big East doesn’t have many super freshmen this year, but Hart is carving out a nice role for Villanova. He’s scored double figures in each of his last five games and is hitting a remarkable 45.9 percent of his threes.

Power Rankings

  • 10.) DePaul (8-8, 0-3):
    Dan Lyons: New year, same DePaul?  That’s what it looks like so far this year for the Blue Demons, who have opened conference play 0-3.  They did keep it close against Georgetown and Marquette, but Creighton made quick work of DePaul yesterday.
    Jameson Fleming: The Blue Demons have been competitive against Marquette and Georgetown. That’s a good sign moving forward. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Bracketology: January 6 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on January 6th, 2014

bracketology

My first batch of bracketology in a month shows how much has changed in just the last few weeks. The top four seeds are firmly cemented right now, but conference play is just beginning and things are going to shake up quite a bit before the NCAA Tournament starts.

Note: The bracket below is updated through all games played Sunday, January 5.

LAST FOUR IN: Tennessee, Texas, Michigan, Butler
FIRST FOUR OUT: Wake Forest, Arkansas, Minnesota, California

bracketologyjan5(2)

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New Year’s Resolution For Power Conference Teams? No More Cupcakes – Conference Play Is Here

Posted by Bennet Hayes on January 4th, 2014

With conference play arriving almost everywhere this weekend (it’s about time!), let’s take a peek at some of the major Saturday (and a few Sunday) games and storylines in college basketball’s seven major conferences.

Say What You Want About The AAC, But The New League Will Pose A New Challenge For Memphis: Real Tests In January And February. The First Of Those Examinations Comes Today Against Cincinnati.

Say What You Want About The AAC, But The Recently-Birthed League Will Pose A New Challenge For Memphis: Real Tests In January And February. The First Of Those Examinations Comes Today Against Cincinnati.

AAC. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first-ever weekend of American Athletic Conference basketball! OK, so maybe it isn’t that exciting, but an old Conference USA matchup does offer the league a headlining game on 2014’s first Saturday. Cincinnati visits Memphis (12:00 ET, ESPN2) in an early match-up of presumed upper-echelon AAC teams, but look elsewhere if you seek a battle of stylistic comrades; the deliberate, defensively stout Bearcats (286th nationally in tempo, eighth in defensive efficiency) will look to put the clamps on an explosive Memphis squad that rarely presses the pause button (39th nationally in tempo, 19th in offensive efficiency). UConn and SMU, both 0-1 in league play, offer an alternate viewing option (2:00 ET, ESPNU), and with a visit to Louisville coming next, Larry Brown’s SMU team would be well served to get a win Saturday to avoid staring down the barrel of an 0-3 league start.

ACC. Will there be life after Jerian Grant for Notre Dame? If yes, then a visit from Duke (4:00 ET, CBS) will offer the Irish the chance to provide a more convincing affirmation than they offered in their first game without Grant – a gut-check overtime victory over Canisius. Garrick Sherman should have a chance to exploit the smallish Duke interior, no matter what Doug Gottlieb thinks about his beard. Elsewhere, Pitt and Syracuse join Notre Dame in making their ACC debuts. The Panthers visit NC State (12:00 ET, ESPN3), while the Orange play host to Miami (2:00 ET, ESPN3). And if you like defense, two of the nation’s 10 most efficient defensive units are set to meet in Tallahassee; Virginia and Florida State (5:00 ET, ESPN2) will tussle in a race to 50 between ACC sleepers.

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Big East M5: 01.02.14 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 2nd, 2014

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. There were definite ups and downs to be found during the marathon that was the first day of Big East play on Tuesday. While those within the conference will admit that the play on the court didn’t often set the basketball world on fire, there is still belief in the future of the league as a basketball power. Commissioner Val Ackerman cites past experience when discussing this topic: “When I was with WNBA, I remember saying it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. The same should be said about the Big East. There’s a long history here, but with a new conference, what we do in the first year or two isn’t necessarily going to be indicative.” While Big East fans hope that the league makes a splash here in year one, the 10 programs aren’t going anywhere, and there is plenty of time for this new-look conference to get its legs under it.
  2. Creighton wasn’t great offensively in its first ever Big East game, but the Bluejays’ defense was able to stifle a struggling Marquette offense, leading to a 67-49 win on New Year’s Eve. Creighton only shot 40 percent from the floor, but they were able to known down 13 threes and kept up with a bigger Golden Eagles’ squad in the paint, where they were only outscored by four. While this win was huge for Creighton — its first-ever in a power basketball conference — the performance is perhaps more telling about Marquette, whose well-publicized offensive struggles seem to be getting worse, not better. The Eagles were the preseason favorite to win the league, but without improvement soon, Marquette will struggle to punch a ticket to the Dance come March.
  3. Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery are going to become very familiar voices for Big East fans (if they weren’t already), especially those who watched the entirety of Tuesday’s basketball marathon.  The team called noon’s Xavier-St. John’s game in Cincinnati and then hightailed it to Indianapolis for Butler-Villanova at 7:30. The IndyStar spent time with Fox Sports 1’s top team on the bus between games, allowing the two to reminisce about some of their favorite Big East and NCAA Tournament memories. Spoiler alert: Butler fans are going to appreciate this far more than… say… Syracuse, Kansas State, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Florida, or Wisconsin fans.
  4. In anticipation of Tuesday’s Creighton/Marquette clash, Andy from Anonymous Eagle and Jacob Padilla from The Creightonian got together for an enlightening Q&A discussion. Among the topics covered: Bluejay fans’ excitement for this season and the Big East conference; the importance of the McDermotts to the Creighton program; Marquette’s early season struggles; and the best places to get a beer and a bite to eat in Omaha. Even though it predates the game won by Creighton, both pieces are still fun reads. Check out Jacob’s answers here and Andy’s here.
  5. To round out a very ‘Creighton vs. Marquette’ heavy M5 this morning, we have footage from a raucous CenturyLink Arena crowd.  On one play, the sold out crowd belted out Neil Diamond’s stadium staple “Sweet Caroline” after the arena speakers had already cut off the song, and it seemed to throw off the Golden Eagles, who promptly turned over the ball. You can judge for yourself, but NBC Sports‘ Rob Dauster seems to think the crowd played a part in the play.
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The Best Of 2013 In College Basketball

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 31st, 2013

With 2013 winding to a close, it’s time to take a look back at the year that was in college basketball. There were too many memorable moments to recount ‘em all, but here’s our honor roll for the last calendar year — a list laced with games, plays, and performances that will long struggle to escape our memory banks.

Best Game: Michigan vs. Kansas, NCAA Tournament, Sweet Sixteen

Trey Burke's Last-Gasp Sweet-16 Heroics Will Surely Be One Of 2013's Prevailing Memories

Trey Burke’s Last-Gasp Sweet-16 Heroics Will Surely Be One Of 2013’s Prevailing Memories

Gonzaga-Butler may have given us the best final seconds of regulation (see below), and Louisville-Notre Dame definitely donated the most riveting 25 minutes of action after regulation, but when talking games of the year, Michigan vs. Kansas was simply unmatched when it came to elevated stakes and elite talent. We won’t soon forget Trey Burke’s comeback-capping, game-tying three to force overtime, but it would be a shame if that’s all that lived on from this classic. Sweet Sixteen match-ups between national title contenders don’t come around every March; would you have bet against Kansas to get to Championship Monday if Burke’s three hadn’t found the bottom of the net on that Friday night?

Honorable Mention: Gonzaga at Butler, Louisville at Notre Dame.

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New Big East Members Proving Doubters Wrong

Posted by George Hershey on December 31st, 2013

Before the season began, many pundits thought that the carry-over members of the Big East would do the heavy lifting as the new league got its feet wet. CBSSports.com, for example, predicted Creighton to finish third, Xavier sixth, and Butler eighth. ESPN.com picked Creighton to finish atop the league, but had Butler sixth and Xavier eighth. As just one example, one writer said about the Bulldogs: “New head coach Brandon Miller is left with a depleted roster in a new conference… the roster as a whole certainly does not reflect an NCAA Tournament team.” It was an understandable position — after losing its fantastic head coach, two best players to graduation, and top returning player to injury, Butler had major question marks. As for Creighton, the Bluejays brought back one of the best players in the nation in Doug McDermott, but there were doubts about their step up in competition from the Missouri Valley Conference, especially on the defensive end. Xavier too returned a great player in Semaj Christon, but the rest of the team was a major unknown and coming off a disappointing 17-14 season by Musketeers’ standards.

Xavier heads into conference play after an impressive start (Frank Victores/USA Today)

Xavier heads into conference play after an impressive start
(Frank Victores/USA Today)

Even though there were doubts and concerns from many of the experts, all three teams are making a case for an NCAA Tournament spot come March. Heading into the start of conference play on New Year’s Even, Creighton has only lost two games, back-to-back defeats to San Diego State and George Washington while at the Wooden Classic in Southern California. They have been very impressive otherwise, with the second-best adjusted offense according to Ken Pomeroy, and an improved, if not elite, defense (ranking 16 spots higher than last season at #64). McDermott, as expected, has been a strong NPOY candidate, and the rest of the team has shot the ball very well, making 44 percent of their threes (the third-best mark in the nation).

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Big East M5: 12.30.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 30th, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Big East teams have wrapped up non-conference play, and with the start of conference games on the horizon with five straight games scheduled throughout Tuesday, writers are beginning to file their mid-year reviews of the new-look league. IndyStar‘s Zak Keefer cites conference winning percentage, true road wins, and the current RPI numbers in defense of the Big East. Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard also finds value in that last statistic: “[We have] six teams in the top 50. Rankings [the Big East has just one team, #8 Villanova, in the Top 25] don’t really matter. The RPI does matter.”
  2. Not everyone is as high on the work that the Big East has done so far this season. USA Today‘s Nicole Auerbach digs into some of the same numbers and her findings aren’t too kind for the conference, especially without Villanova‘s impressive resume: “Just one of those 85 wins has come against a team with an RPI in the top 25. Even worse, Big East teams were just 5-19 against the RPI’s top 50. Villanova has done most of that heavy lifting on its own. Its sparkling 11-1 record — including a missed opportunity Saturday with a loss to Syracuse — features wins against Kansas and Iowa, ranked No. 3 and No. 38 in the RPI, respectively.” In the past, Big East teams could recover from mediocre Novembers and Decembers with big league wins against highly-ranked Syracuse, Connecticut or Louisville squads. Now, those opportunities will be much more fleeting.
  3. Doug McDermott checks in at number two on RTC alumnus and Cleveland.com‘s David Cassilo’s weekly Player of the Year rankings. Cassilo praises McDermott’s elite shooting and all-around scoring ability, while noting his attention to detail: “Being a coach’s son (his father Greg is the coach of Creighton) means that McDermott pays special attention to the little things too. He’s averaging just 2.0 turnovers per game, 1.5 fouls per game and shoots 89.3 percent from the line.”  McDermott is the only Big East player on a list topped by Duke’s Jabari Parker. Former Big East players Shabazz Napier, Russ Smith, and C.J. Fair also appear in the top 12.
  4. Despite a setback in Syracuse over the weekend, Villanova enters conference play as the favorite to win the new league. The Wildcats were expected by many to return to the NCAA Tournament and finish among the top half of the conference this season, but just a few years removed from a 13-19 nightmare, few would have guessed that they would be the only Big East team in the Top 25 and have wins against Kansas and Iowa to their name. Wright credits a refocus in the philosophy of the program for the success that the team has recently experienced: “We got caught in a situation where we had guys that were coming in thinking about leaving early, so we were backing ourselves up in recruiting thinking they were going to leave. Then they didn’t leave. They were frustrated they were here and the guys behind them weren’t getting the playing time to develop. I think we learned a good lesson from that.” Now, Villanova enters league play stacked to the brim with talented guards, as well as strong frontcourt players like JayVaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu, and their upcoming opponents can’t be too excited to see the Wildcats on the schedule.
  5. Big East commissioner Val Ackerman considers the Butler basketball program as a great model for what she believes the entire conference can achieve as a hoops-focused league in a college athletics landscape largely dominated by football revenues. She believes that schools can thrive in athletics without big time college football, and uses Butler’s recent Final Four runs as a strong example: “It was a bold move, don’t get me wrong, for all these schools to essentially say, ‘We’re not going to get into the football arms race’, but the commonality is what separates this league from others, and certainly from what the old Big East had become in terms of the division of interest between large and small, football and non-football.” Butler should reap the benefits of membership as well. As Zak Keefer notes, Butler’s conference schedule has been upgraded to include teams like Georgetown and Villanova as opposed to the Horizon League opponents it regularly faced, and increased exposure in places like New York City, where the conference will host its conference tournament, should help its recruiting take off.
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Kellen Dunham Has Become Butler’s Next Star

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on December 16th, 2013

It’s time we all start to think about a certain player as a star. It should be no surprise what school he comes from, because it’s a school we all routinely seem to underrate. But with Butler’s Kellen Dunham going off for a game-high 25 points in the Crossroads Classic against Purdue on Saturday, there’s no excuse for continuing to ignore the talented sophomore guard.

Kellen Dunham has become Butler's best player and one of the best in the Big East (Photo: John Fetcho)

Kellen Dunham has become Butler’s best player and one of the best in the Big East (Photo: John Fetcho)

Coming into the season, Dunham wasn’t a player that many pundits had on their radar screens as a potential star. He was certainly a good shooter, but not someone thought of as a future do-everything guy. In fact, he wasn’t even supposed to be the best player on his own team, and that’s even taking into account the injury to Roosevelt Jones. Khyle Marshall was that guy, but it has instead been Dunham who has become the primary scoring threat for the Bulldogs this season, and on Saturday versus Purdue he solidified himself as Butler’s alpha dog and one of the best in the new Big East.

Against Purdue, Dunham was routinely hounded and it didn’t matter. Terone Johnson, who drew the task of defending Dunham, said after the game that the Boilers centered their prep on slowing him down. This was most noticeable in that Purdue bumped him, forced him to go different routes, and generally did everything within the new rules scheme to make his life uncomfortable. As a result, Dunham shot the ball from awkward positions, on stepback jumpers, with just inches of space, and drives toward the basket for a solid 8-of-16 shooting night. Perhaps most impressive about his game-high 25 points is that he did it without relying on his long-range prowess to score (2-of-4 from distance). As Dunham said after the game, “They made it pretty difficult on me. They tried to limit what direction I was going, forcing me to the baseline and things like that. I thought Purdue did a tremendous job on me. Every shot was really tough to make.”

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