Indiana and Purdue Both Face Questions Following Crossroads Classic

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on December 16th, 2013

It wasn’t a good day for the Big Ten contingent at the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis on Saturday. Indiana and Purdue both lost games they really needed to win, and now find themselves still without a marquee win on their NCAA resumes. The losses also gave Indiana (1-2 in Crossroads Classic history) and Purdue (0-3) losing records versus their in-state brethren Notre Dame (2-1) and Butler (3-0) in the event. So maybe the B1G schools don’t actually rule the state after all. Here are three keys from each of Saturday’s games and some questions facing the Hoosiers and Boilermakers following each.

Notre Dame 79, Indiana 72

Indiana's Will Sheehey battles with Notre Dame's Jerian Grant for a ball in the Crossroads Classic. Indiana faces plenty of questions following the loss to the Irish (AP Photo/Michael Conroy).

Indiana’s Will Sheehey battles with Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant for a ball in the Crossroads Classic. Indiana faces plenty of questions following the loss to the Irish (AP Photo/Michael Conroy).

  • Physicality Inside. Everyone thought it would be the Notre Dame guards who could lead the Irish to an upset victory, but everyone was pretty much wrong. Jerian Grant had a very good game (23 points), but it was the Irish’s inside play of Garrick Sherman (16/6) and bench players Tom Knight (yes, he still plays basketball) and Zach Auguste that killed Indiana inside. These players routinely went right at Vonleh and the other Hoosiers and just outmuscled them in the paint. The Hoosier freshman is very athletic and talented but he had no answer when they backed him down. This is an issue that could rear its head often for this team during Big Ten play if Vonleh doesn’t toughen up or the Hoosiers don’t find someone to match up defensively with the strong inside players in the conference.
  • Go-to Scorer. Indiana never took the lead in this game despite coming close over and over again. The Hoosiers would pull within a few points or tie the game and could never quite get over the hump. Each time, Indiana either froze on assessing its options or the leaders who tried to take charge didn’t come through. Examples included Will Sheehey quickly pulling up for a three-pointer and missing, or Yogi Ferrell taking an isolation drive that was rejected. These two or someone else needs to emerge for Indiana to close out games like these in the future. Read the rest of this entry »
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Previewing the Crossroads Classic

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on December 14th, 2013

In a state that considers itself the mecca for hoops, Indiana’s premiere college basketball programs are set to play in the Crossroads Classic’s third edition later today. In the past two years the event has brought buzzer-beaters and an upset over a No. 1 team, but this season, all four teams desperately need a win here to help their future NCAA hopes. It’s a day for state supremacy and bragging rights at Bankers Life Fieldhouse — on a Saturday afternoon of great basketball around the country, the Crossroads Classic is unlikely to disappoint. Below you will find three keys to both games for Indiana and Purdue to notch wins in this afternoon’s event.

The Crossroads Classic

The Crossroads Classic is Becoming a Hoosier State Tradition

Notre Dame vs. Indiana 3:15 PM, ESPN

  • Take care of the ball. The Irish are the more experienced team taking on the relatively young Hoosiers. This becomes especially important in the backcourt where Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell faces Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins. These two take care of and share the ball extremely well (Notre Dame is third in the country in assists per game). Ferrell will need to match their composure and not make mistakes if Indiana hopes to walk away with the victory here.
  • Use its athleticism. Indiana struggled against Syracuse’s zone with all of its tall, athletic and physical players. Notre Dame at least has the tall and physical part going for it. This means that the Hoosiers will need to use their athleticism to get out and run. If Indiana can turn this into a track meet game, it has a better chance of winning the contest where its athleticism can outmatch Notre Dame’s experience. This also helps alleviate the Irish having a strong starting five versus Indiana typically having to rely on a couple players to explode (read: Noah Vonleh, Jeremy Hollowell, Ferrell).

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After a Quiet Week On College Hardwood, Weekend Action Set to Heat Things Up

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 14th, 2013

The end of the winter exam period could not come soon enough for college basketball fans. Yes, we know that it’s important for the kids to take care of their academics, but even the most fervent of followers would have to admit they could only take so many more nights of Bryant being featured in the headline contest of the evening. Nothing against the Bulldogs and their tidy 6-5 start, but this weekend’s spate of entertaining match-ups should help us all regain a little sanity Last night’s Hawkeye State battle served as a worthy appetizer for Saturday’s feast of action, but before you grab the remote and plop down in the front row seat in your living room, check out these four storylines to monitor on Saturday.

Arizona Takes Its #1 Ranking to Ann Arbor Today

Arizona Takes Its #1 Ranking to Ann Arbor Today

Chances For Validation, Redemption In Ann Arbor

It may be hard to believe now, but public perception of Arizona and Michigan was pretty comparable at the start of the year. Needless to say, that is no longer the case. The Wildcats, now also known as the #1 team in the land, get a shot at validating that ranking when they visit Ann Arbor today (12:00 EST, CBS), while the floundering Wolverines will seek to redirect the trajectory of their season. Wins over the #1 team in the country have a way of curing a lot of ills, but it will take a yet-to-be-seen vigor for Michigan to earn that antidote, even on their home floor. Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan will clash with Aaron Gordon and the rest of that vaunted Arizona front line down low, but keep an eye on the battle of the Ni(c)ks. We saw against Duke how crippling a subpar night from Nik Stauskas can be for the Wolverines; if Nick Johnson’s rep as one of the best stoppers out West carries weight in Ann Arbor, Michigan may again find themselves searching for other scoring outlets. For Michigan, Saturday is an opportunity to prove that the Wolverines still might be who we thought they were; for the Cats, it’s another chance to show us that they are exactly who we think they are.

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Big East M5: 12.13.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 13th, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Sports on Earth‘s Will Leitch compiled a list of the 25 ‘best jobs’ in college basketball, and only one Big East team made the cut: Georgetown. In his one sentence recap of the pick, Leitch says “In retrospect, it’s insane that anyone not named John Thompson ever coached this team.” With its academic profile, location in Washington D.C., a strong basketball city, and tradition, it’s hard to argue against the attractiveness of the Hoyas job. While Georgetown is the only team in his top 25, the “just missing the cut” list includes Butler, Creighton, Marquette, Villanova and Xavier. It’s interesting to see the three new members of the Big East on that list, certainly bolstered by the combination of good recent tradition and a boost by the new conference.
  2. One of the major debates about the new Big East is whether the league should be considered a “power conference.” Villanova blog VU Hoops tackled this question, looking at how the league stacks up according to national basketball analysts, including Jeff Sagarin and Joe Lunardi. Sagarin’s most recent rankings place the Big East fourth among power conferences, while Lunardi has six Big East teams in his current NCAA Tournament field. While the conference lacks power at the top — only Villanova is currently ranked in the Top 25 — the top eight teams all look competitive and the league should be well represented come March. Whether that makes it a power conference is probably open to interpretation, but Big East fans have some good basketball ahead of them.
  3. Numerous publications have released “__ most surprising teams in college basketball” lists as we hit the first quarter mark of the season, and Villanova is getting a lot of play in that category. Yahoo! Sports has the Wildcats second on its list, only behind undefeated Wisconsin. Jeff Eisenberg praises Villanova’s strong rebounding despite its smaller lineups, and their tenacious on-ball defense: “Despite often playing four guards and nobody taller than 6’7″, the Wildcats have been effective rebounding the ball and dominant defensively, surrendering a Big East-best 0.89 points per possession and forcing 16.7 turnovers per game.” Coming into the season the Wildcats were generally projected to finish in the top four or five spots in the conference and likely earn an NCAA bid, but expectations are soaring after a surge into the top 10 in the AP poll and all of the big wins that they picked up in the Bahamas.
  4. St. John’s hosts Syracuse at MSG this Sunday, renewing an old Big East rivalry. The game is big for both sides, but thoughts on this game are quite different between the two fan bases. For St. John’s, this game is a chance to avenge a number of bad losses to Syracuse over the last few years and to reclaim the title of “New York’s College Team,” a slogan that Syracuse proudly boasts both in upstate New York and in Midtown Manhattan. St. John’s fans also don’t love the fact that Syracuse’s strong New York City alumni come out in droves for games at Madison Square Garden. On the other side, Syracuse fans covet games in the Garden but don’t look at the Red Storm as a major rival, at least not since the halcyon days of Lou Carnesecca and Chris Mullin in the 1980s. Georgetown and UConn take the top two slots on most Orange fans’ lists of rivals, followed by some combination of Villanova, Pittsburgh, Louisville and the Johnnies, largely depending on when that person began following the Orange. Rumble in the Garden reflected on this upcoming game, and what it means for fans of both sides.
  5. Kris Dunn‘s Providence career has been marred by injury to this point, and he will unfortunately miss the rest of this season after shoulder surgery, the second on his right shoulder during his time at PC. In an article from The Day‘s Gavin Keefe, Dunn’s father John Seldon didn’t seem thrilled by the way his son’s shoulder issues were handled, especially considering that Dunn experienced some discomfort heading into a game against Rhode Island College in early November: “I’m not a doctor and not the coach. I’m just a parent. [Coach Ed Cooley] runs his program the way he runs his program. I’m not mad at the coach… If I’ve got a kid coming off an injury, I’m going to be watching him. The kid came back from a major injury and was healthy. I would try to take care of him.” Dunn hadn’t been putting up huge numbers for the Friars, but he is a major talent and was expected to combine with Bryce Cotton to form one of the better backcourts in the Big East.
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Pac-12 M5: 12.04.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on December 4th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. Oregon head coach Dana Altman was rewarded after a quick start to the 2013-14 season with a three-year contract extension last week. The Oregonian takes a closer look inside his new contract, which reportedly includes a $100,000 signing bonus. Outside of the extra money, the most critical part of the extension is the increased job security, which will be big for Altman’s continued recruiting over the next several years. The amended contract allows Altman to earn $525,000 for an NCAA title, up from a $295,000 number on his initial one. Altman and his 7-0 Ducks return to the floor Sunday at Mississippi.
  2. Does the 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis field boast one of the best eight-team fields in early season tournament history? It’s certainly possible, what with each of the eight schools either a traditional power or providing some intrigue. Just like in the 2013 version, the Pac-12 will be represented by one of the Los Angeles schools, this time with UCLA heading to the Caribbean. North Carolina, Georgetown and Florida are the other powers headed to the Bahamas, while Butler, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and UAB (who just beat the Tar Heels on Sunday) are all solid names to round out the bracket.
  3. Arizona won its eighth consecutive game to open the season on Tuesday night, jumping in front of Texas Tech early and coming out with a dominant 79-58 victory. The Wildcats were up 10-0 on the Red Raiders before they had a chance to blink, and it was 23-10 Arizona almost as quickly. Freshman sensation Aaron Gordon led the Cats with 19 points in the 21-point victory, but next up is a bit of a stiffer test, a visit from UNLV at the McKale Center on Saturday afternoon.
  4. Former Wildcat head coach Lute Olson joins the growing list of big names to voice his displeasure in the new way games are being officiated. His top complaint is also mine; the new rules were created to add more flow to the game, especially on offense, but in the first three and a half weeks of basketball, I’ve only seen a handful of games with actual rhythm. Teams are scoring more, but that has more to do with trips to the foul line than better flow to the game. Will teams eventually adjust? Absolutely, but it is getting pretty bad.
  5. Are there people out there still questioning the Larry Krystkowiak hire at Utah? Krystkowiak has made that team fun to watch and competitive, and after winning its first six games this season, the Utes went into Boise on Tuesday night and nearly shocked a Broncos team that went dancing last March. Even though Boise pulled out the 69-67 win, Utah proved that its great start wasn’t necessarily because of a soft schedule and that it should be feared once Pac-12 play rolls around.
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Big East M5: 12.04.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 4th, 2013

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  1. What was supposed to be a promising season for a young, talented Providence team has gone off the rails a bit as suspensions and injuries have reared their ugly heads. Ed Cooley lost Kris Dunn to injury for Sunday night’s showdown with national power Kentucky, while freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock remain suspended indefinitely. All three players, especially Dunn and Austin, were expected to be major contributors for a Friars squad looking for an NCAA berth, but for now Cooley has to dance with the players that brought him: “I’m going to coach the team that’s on the bus.”
  2. So Feast Week was fun, right? Well next year’s slate of exotic star-studded tournaments should also be a good one. Georgetown and Butler have signed on to play in next year’s Battle 4 Atlantis, where they will have a chance to face North Carolina, UCLA, Florida, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and UAB.  This is the second straight year where there will be some potential for all-Big East tournament match-ups, after Creighton and Marquette nearly faced off in the finals of this year’s Wooden Legacy. Conference realignment is the gift that keeps on giving, it appears. While UNC, Florida, UCLA and the like are tough potential opponents, one Casual Hoya commenter looked on the bright side of this slate:gtown NE atlantis
  3. God’sgift Achiuwa hasn’t made a huge impact for St. John’s on the court this season — the forward is averaging 1.4 points in 7.7 minutes per game for the Red Storm — but he’s doing great things off the court in his community. ‘Gift’ is among 201 nominees for the 2014 Allstate NABC and WBCA Good Works Teams. A St. John’s release further details all of the great things that Achiuwa and the rest of the Red Storm are involved in around New York City:”In 2012-13 Achiuwa and members of the men’s basketball team participated in more than 131 hours of community service, volunteering their time at the St. John’s Bread and Life Soup Kitchen, the San Francisco Food Bank, the annual Red Storm Dribble For The Cure benefiting the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, the St. Nicholas of Tolentine Men’s Shelter and in the Community Mayor program. The 2013 Dribble For The Cure raised $70,000 for pediatric cancer research in the New York area bringing its three-year total to $120,000.”

    While basketball is why we’re all here at Rush the Court, it’s always great to hear about the human stories and incredible acts of charity that so many of these players are involved with.

  4. Butler wasn’t picked by many to finish very high in the Big East this season, but the Bulldogs have done a great job managing a tough schedule thus far. Indy Star took a look at how each of the Big East teams have fared so far this season, and how the Bulldogs stack up, relatively speaking. At 5-2 with the ’2′ being a two-point overtime loss to LSU and a near take-down of a star-laden Oklahoma State team, Butler has impressed: “Butler accomplished something in Orlando, even if it won’t show up in their season record: They proved they can play with anyone in the country. Simply put, they looked like an NCAA Tournament team, and that’s something few expected to hear about this Bulldog team.”
  5. Villanova is the talk of the conference right now coming off an impressive Battle 4 Atlantis win over a possible national championship contender in Kansas and another ranked team in Iowa. The Wildcats have a deep group of talented perimeter players, headlined by Kansas-game hero Ryan Arcidiacono and swingman James Bell, who is having a breakout season, but Jay Wright believes it is Rice transfer Dylan Ennis who has made all the difference for his club: “He shocked me. He played with great composure. He didn’t force shots. He was really impressive.” Ennis averaged 12 points, three rebounds, and two assists at Atlantis — his first three games of the season — and was especially effective from long range, knocking down eight of his 12 three point attempts.  Nova’s schedule now becomes very Philly-centric, with games against Penn, Saint Joseph’s, and La Salle over the next few weeks, but the biggest match-up for Ennis comes on December 28 when he travels to the Carrier Dome for a showdown with his little brother Tyler, who has been excellent so far this season as the starting point guard for the Orange.
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LSU Comes Out of Old Spice Eyeing an NCAA Year

Posted by Greg Mitchell on December 3rd, 2013

LSU got a trip to Disney World out of the Old Spice Classic, and no one can take away from them. As cool as that is, the Tigers also ended up leaving the happiest place on earth with a quality win over Butler, and that’s pretty cool too. LSU opened the tournament with a decisive win over Saint Joseph’s. That could end up being a resume-booster because the Hawks competed in a close game with Creighton, but not much is known about Phil Martelli’s group yet (KenPom #77). LSU then led Memphis at halftime of their next game but a sloppy, turnover-filled second half resulted in a seven-point loss.

LSU got a giant three from Anthony Hickey in the final seconds against Butler (photo courtesy sportsnola.com).

LSU got a giant three from Anthony Hickey in the final seconds against Butler (photo courtesy sportsnola.com).

Next up was Butler, a team that obviously still carries name value and had shown something by clawing back into its previous game with Oklahoma State to lose by two. The Tigers overcame a late six-point deficit and executed a must-have three by Anthony Hickey in the final seconds to force overtime. Leaving Orlando with a close loss to Butler would have been frustrating. They would have been saddled with three close losses to good teams, suggesting that the Tigers don’t yet have the ability to win against good competition in those situations. They also would’ve been beaten in a variety of ways. LSU couldn’t take care of the ball against Memphis, turning it over 24 times. Against Butler, LSU held the Bulldogs to just 33 percent shooting but got beat up on the offensive glass (18). You can challenge shots and force bad ones, but it won’t matter much if you keep giving up second chances.

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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Washington State in the Old Spice Classic

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 28th, 2013

With Feast Week tipping off over the weekend, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Pac-12 teams involved in neutral site events this week. 

What They’ve Done So Far: Washington State has looked awful in the first three weeks of the season. After sneaking by Cal State Bakersfield on opening night, the Cougars handled Lamar with ease nine days later. They then made the short trip over to Spokane to face Gonzaga, where they were easily dispatched by the Bulldogs, 90-74. That wasn’t the low point, however. That came three days later in front of a sleepy home crowd at Beasley Coliseum, where lowly TCU came in and pulled off a stunning 64-62 upset.

Things Have Gone Poorly In This Pivotal Season For Head Coach Ken Bone

Things Have Gone Poorly In This Pivotal Season For Head Coach Ken Bone

First Round Preview: Washington State meets Butler in Lake Buena Vista on Thursday morning. The Bulldogs have started the season at 4-0 and their best win came in overtime against Vanderbilt last week. They feature as balanced an attack on the offensive end of the floor as you’ll see in this field, with both forward Khyle Marshall and guard Kellen Dunham averaging 15.8 PPG a piece. Where the Cougars have been struggling is on offense, and junior Alex Barlow will prove to be a pesky pain in the side for their guards. He’s averaging 2.0 SPG and recorded three of them in Butler’s game at Ball State last Saturday.

Potential Later Round Match-up: If the bracket holds, it looks like the Cougs will face Purdue on Friday and Siena on Sunday. These aren’t exactly opponents that will provide a huge boost to the RPI, making a possible upset of Butler even more important. The Boilermakers have opened the season at 5-1, but that record doesn’t look as good when you consider the fact that the best win came against Eastern Illinois. Everything goes through sophomore guard Ronnie Johnson for head coach Matt Painter, who is scoring at a 13.8 PPG clip and averaging 4.4 APG. Siena has opened the year at 2-4 with wins over St. Bonaventure and Cornell. It faces Memphis in its opener at the Old Spice Classic.

Outlook: While two wins may be possible, in all honesty the Cougars should be expecting one. Until Ken Bone’s guys show some resemblance of an offense, it’s going to be best to keep the expectations low in Pullman.

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RTC Big East Microsite Week in Review

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 26th, 2013

Happy holidays everyone! Feast Week is upon us, and the Big East has been performing pretty well across the board so far this season. There appears to be a lot of parity in the conference, and a few surprise teams like Xavier and Providence look like they may be real contenders this season. Let’s jump into the previous week of action.

Power Rankings

Xavier is Creeping up the Power Rankings Behind Semaj Christon

  • 10.) DePaul (3-2), LW (10): DePaul looks like it might be a solid step up from where it has been the last few seasons, but last night’s game against Wichita State shows there’s still a lot of opportunities for improvement.
  • 9.) Seton Hall (4-2), LW (8): The Pirates have a penchant for close games. Four of their six games have been decided by single figures, including both of their losses: a 77-74 double-overtime heartbreaker to Mercer, and an 86-85 loss to Oklahoma.
  • T-7.) Butler (4-0), LW (9): Butler is still undefeated by the narrowest of margins, winning an overtime thriller against Vanderbilt and a one-point game against Ball State last week. Khyle Marshall and Kellen Dunham are keeping the Butler offense afloat, each by averaging 15.8 points per game.
  • T-7.) St. John’s (3-1), LW (5): Phil Greene IV had a big week for the Johnnies, scoring 16 and 22 points in tight wins over Bucknell and Monmouth, respectively. Greene’s contributions in the backcourt have been very important for a St. John’s team that is struggling to score.
  • 6.) Providence (6-1), LW (6): The Friars had as good of a week as anyone, winning three games over solid competition before dropping last night’s Paradise Jam championship to Maryland. The frontcourt combination of Kadeem BattsLaDontae Henton and Tyler Harris has been as effective as any in the league in the early part of the season. Read the rest of this entry »
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A Better Outlook for Vanderbilt?

Posted by David Changas on November 22nd, 2013

It was a summer to forget for Kevin Stallings. After finishing a relatively disappointing 2012-13 campaign with a run to the SEC Tournament semifinals, there was reason for some optimism heading into the offseason. Then Kevin Bright left to play professionally in Germany. And Sheldon Jeter transferred. And, in the biggest blow to this season’s prospects, star point guard and team leader Kedren Johnson was suspended from school. Without those three key contributors, many wrote off the Commodores’ chances for anything but a disastrous season. Picked to finish 10th by the SEC media, the prediction was only that high because the four teams predicted to finish behind them – Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi State, and Auburn – are in more dire straits. While the losses of Bright and Jeter hurt — both were expected to be major contributors — Johnson’s departure appeared disastrous. The rising junior would have been an all-SEC selection and was the team’s on-court leader and go-to scorer. With his departures, the Commodores returned only 35 PPG from last season and appeared to be a roster full of complementary players.

Kevin Stallings  (AP/Wade Payne)

Kevin Stallings May Have Some Tricks Up His Sleeve This Year (AP/Wade Payne)

Despite all that happened over the summer and a general expectation of a finish near the bottom of the SEC, Stallings remained optimistic about his team’s prospects during the preseason. And while it’s far too early to say that this team will exceed its low expectations, there are signs Stallings wasn’t just engaging in coach-speak when he talked up his squad. Heading into Friday’s game with Providence at the Paradise Jam, the Commodores sit at 2-1 with home victories over Georgia State and Lipscomb, and an overtime loss at Butler on Tuesday – a game in which they fought back from a 14-point second half deficit to force the extra frame. While the team’s defense appears to have fallen off somewhat (ranking 122nd, down from 51st nationally), the offense, according to Ken Pomeroy, is much improved (177th to 65th). The team heads to the Virgin Islands with a chance to build some necessary confidence against quality competition.

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Kellen Dunham and Khyle Marshall Have Emerged For Butler

Posted by Walker Carey on November 20th, 2013

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed his report after Tuesday’s game in Indianapolis between Butler and Vanderbilt.

The 2013-14 season is supposed to be a transition year for Butler as it entered its first season in the new Big East. For starters, the team lost key offensive weapons Rotnei Clarke and Andrew Smith to graduation after last season. With the team’s personnel already in a bit of a rebuilding phase, things took a stunning turn in early July when Brad Stevens left Butler to take the head coaching job with the Boston Celtics. With assistant Brandon Miller replacing Stevens, things got even dicier for the Bulldogs in August when top returnee Roosevelt Jones was lost for the season after suffering a wrist injury during the team’s summer trip to Australia. Entering the season then, a Butler program that had developed a reputation for stability over the last several years was suddenly searching for an identity. Through the first three games of that search, Butler has found a semblance of what it is looking for in the play of sophomore guard Kellen Dunham and senior forward Khyle Marshall.

Khyle Marshall Was Outstanding Tuesday Night (IndyStar)

Khyle Marshall Was Outstanding Tuesday Night (IndyStar)

As a freshman last season, Dunham experienced a lot of the ups and downs that goes along with being a freshman. He put up a respectable 9.5 points per contest – which was good for fifth-best on the team – but he only shot 37.5 percent from the field. Stepping into the void left by the departed Clarke, Dunham has upped his level of play thus far in his sophomore season. After putting up a solid 13 points in a season-opening 89-58 blowout victory over Lamar, the sharpshooter had a career-best performance in this past Saturday’s narrow 70-67 triumph over Princeton. In Tuesday evening’s overtime defeat of Vanderbilt, Dunham set the tone early for Butler by scoring 10 of his 16 points in the first half. As Vanderbilt fought back to force overtime, the sophomore showed great resolve in effectively facilitating the Butler offense and providing excellent defense against a Commodore attack that valiantly battled back from a 14-point second half deficit.

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Big East M5: 11.20.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 20th, 2013

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  1. Butler may not get flashy play  from starting point guard and former walk-on junior Alex Barlow, but the Bulldogs value the consistency and defensive intensity that he brings to the table. News-Sentinel writer Tom Davis often finds himself and his colleagues in the media openly questioning the athleticism and abilities of Barlow, but he admits that it is probably time that he stopped after talking about the guard with members of the program. Head coach Brandon Miller was quick to point out some of the crucial skills that help Barlow excel: “A lot of times when you think about Alex Barlow, you don’t think of athleticism, but he’s very good laterally. He has an ability to stay in front of the ball. He has quick hands.” Barlow’s contributions aren’t always tangible or easy to find in a box score, but they surely don’t lack importance, adds Davis: “There is no statistic in the box score under ‘help and recover’ or ‘talked on a switch’ or ‘rotated quickly and properly’ or ‘closed out under control and contested the shot.’ If those categories were tracked by the media, Barlow, who earned a scholarship as a sophomore, would be All-Big East this season.” Interesting stuff.
  2. Georgetown‘s non-conference slate is among the most challenging in the Big East, and it may take another leap depending on how things in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off shake out. The Hoyas open the tournament with Northeastern, and will then face either Charlotte or Kansas State.  Should the Hoyas make a run to the finals, most expect that they will meet last year’s national runners-up, Michigan, who is looking to rebound from its first loss of the season to Iowa State on Sunday. In speaking with The Hoya, Georgetown players and coaches brought up a couple of newcomers who may make a big difference for the team in Puerto Rico — UCLA transfer Josh Smith and freshman forward Reggie Cameron. Smith flashed his interior scoring talents in a loss to Oregon to open the season, while Cameron was 3-of-5 from deep against Wright State. They both add new dimensions to a Georgetown attack that is averaging 81.5 points per game in the young season.
  3. Providence point guard Kris Dunn saw his first action since the preseason, coming off the bench to score three points and dole out eight assists against Vermont. Dunn injured the shoulder that cost him the first nine games of his freshman season in an exhibition with Rhode Island College in early November. He solidifies a rotation that is already getting strong scoring from forward Kadeem Batts and stalwart shooting guard Bryce Cotton. With Dunn running the offense, Cotton scoring in bunches, and Batts threatening for double-doubles on a regular basis, Providence is off to a nice start in 2013-14.
  4. The Crosstown Classic, the annual showdown between Xavier and Cincinnati, a couple of universities separated by just over two miles, is one of college basketball’s great rivalries but recent turmoil has threatened the future of the game. Since the infamous 2011 brawl, which forced the game to be called early, the Classic has been moved off the campuses to a neutral site — downtown Cincinnati’s U.S. Bank Arena. While both schools would like to continue the game, there is some debate as to where it should take place in the future; and quite naturally, there is some disagreement between the schools. Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin praised last year’s neutral site game, while Xavier’s Chris Mack expressed a desire to have the rivalry back in the campus arenas.
  5. Between preparing for the likes of rivals like Cincinnati or the other foes in the new Big East, Chris Mack has taken on some coaching duties on the side, becoming the head of a proud third grade program at Blessed Sacrament School, where his daughter Lainee channels Semaj Christon on Sunday afternoons. As with any big-time program, Mack is keenly aware of how the rabid Internet fans react to poor play: “I’m sure the message boards are saying, ‘They’re not shooting free throws good enough.’ “ CBS Sports‘ Gregg Doyel stopped by to watch Blessed Sacrament take on St. Pius, and penned a great story about how important this time is for Mack and his family: “I didn’t want to be that dad who shows up with the lawn chair and then leaves at halftime because I have [a recruit coming on] an official visit. I want to have that same experience with my kids, and I want them to have those memories like I have with my father.”
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