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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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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Rushed Reactions: #22 Notre Dame 81, Purdue 68

Posted by WCarey on December 15th, 2012

rushedreactions

Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed some quick thoughts from this afternoon’s showdown between Notre Dame and Purdue

Three Key Takeaways.

Jack Cooley and Notre Dame Handed Purdue Easily Today

Jack Cooley and Notre Dame Handed Purdue Easily Today

  1. Purdue Is Definitely In A Rebuilding Season. In his eighth season as the head coach of the Boilermakers, Matt Painter has faced the tall task of attempting to replace Purdue legend Robbie Hummel. Thus far, the task has proven to be quite difficult. The Boilermakers sit at just 4-6 on the season and have already suffered losses to two mid-major programs (Bucknell and Eastern Michigan). Throughout the season, Purdue has struggled mightily with turnovers and its shooting percentage. Its struggles in both areas have thus far prevented the Boilermaker offense from establishing an identity on offense. Today’s starting lineup featured a redshirt freshman and two true freshmen, so it is easy to understand why the Boilermakers are battling through some pretty significant humps.
  2. Jack Cooley And Garrick Sherman Provide Notre Dame With A Formidable Frontcourt. Both the senior Cooley and the junior Sherman had productive afternoons with Cooley tallying 18 points and nine rebounds and Sherman pitching in 11 points and three rebounds. While Cooley starts and Sherman comes off the bench, there are many instances where the two are on the court together. Those instances provide the Irish with an interior-size advantage that has not been too common during the tenure of Mike Brey. The Big East is always a fairly rugged league, so this size advantage will undoubtedly help the Irish when conference play commences.
  3. Notre Dame’s Experience Helps The Irish Greatly. This season’s Irish returns all five starters from last season’s team and that gives them an experience advantage in almost every game it will play this season. You can sense this team’s experience while watching them play. Purdue went on a 16-2 run in the middle of the second half and the Irish never once became rattled. The Irish tri-captains — junior Eric Atkins, senior Jack Cooley, and senior Scott Martin — have seen a little bit of everything during their collegiate careers, so it is pretty easy to see why the team does not get rattled no matter the circumstance.

Star of the Game. Pat Connaughton, Notre Dame. While Jack Cooley put up another workmanlike effort for the Irish inside, it was the sophomore Connaughton that stood out on both ends of the court. Offensively, the swingman contributed 16 points, including a late three-pointer that put the late Purdue surge to rest. Defensively, Connaughton was in the face of Purdue sharpshooter D.J. Byrd all night and never allowed the senior to get into a groove offensively.

Quotable.

  • “We are flowing really well right now. No one is being selfish, which is great to see.” – Notre Dame forward Jack Cooley, acknowledging the strides the Irish offense has taken in its recent games.
  • “I thought that was really business-like by us today.” – Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey, referencing his team’s steady effort in the victory.

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Rushed Reactions: Butler 88, #1 Indiana 86 (OT)

Posted by WCarey on December 15th, 2012

rushedreactions

Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed some quick thoughts from this afternoon’s showdown between Indiana and Butler

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. It Is Very Possible That Brad Stevens Is The Best Coach In The Country. How many other coaches could have led their team to victory against the number one team in the country with three players fouled out? If any others, the answer to that question is a very small number. Butler entered the overtime period against Indiana with swingman Roosevelt Jones and center Andrew Smith already disqualified due to fouls; then, early in the extra time, forward Erik Fromm picked up his fifth foul. With these three relegated to spectator status, Butler used a much smaller lineup consisting of Alex Barlow, Rotnei Clarke, Kellen Dunham, Chase Stigall, and Khyle Marshall. This lineup proved to be very effective for Butler, as the Bulldogs made five of their seven shots in the extra period. Reserve Stigall and rarely-used Barlow, who only recorded one field goal during the entire 2011-12 season, made the two biggest shots of the game for the Bulldogs. Well-coached teams are squads that never step down in the face of adversity and that is what Butler did this afternoon. You also have to credit the coaching staff for having players like Barlow and Stigall ready to contribute in the late minutes.
  2. Butler Is A Very Balanced Team. While Rotnei Clarke deservedly draws most of the national praise, this Butler team can hurt you in a variety of ways. Before fouling out, Andrew Smith more than held his own against Cody Zeller, who is without question one of the best players in the country. Smith finished the afternoon with a very workmanlike 12 points and nine rebounds. Roosevelt Jones had a huge afternoon for the Bulldogs too, as he finished with 16 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists. Khyle Marshall and Erik Fromm were also double-figure scorers for Butler, finishing with 12 and 10, respectively. Alex Barlow, Kellen Dunham, and Chase Stigall all contributed to the scoring column down the stretch with huge field goals that helped contribute to a truly “team” victory. Butler’s balance this afternoon had to have been a great sign for Brad Stevens, as he now knows he can rely on other guys if and when Clarke has an off night.
  3. Indiana Certainly Did Not Play Like The Best Team In The Country. This might be a little obvious considering the fact that the Hoosiers lost the game, but they did not play a very good game. Standout sophomore Cody Zeller was stymied inside all afternoon by Butler’s interior defense and only managed nine field goal attempts. It is usually not a good sign when your National Player of the Year candidate only takes nine shots. Senior forward Christian Watford was a non-factor for most of the afternoon, as he was saddled with early foul trouble. Watford finished the game with 10 points, but did so while only converting one field goal. Senior guard Jordan Hulls had a rough day shooting the ball, as he converted just four of his 11 field goal attempts and did not make a single three-pointer. Freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell and junior swingman Victor Oladipo each made terrific plays down the stretch in regulation to force overtime, but both players battled turnover issues all game long – each finishing with six. If Indiana wants to be in the top team discussion this season, it is going to need more efforts where it plays like a great team consistently throughout the game.
Butler Deserves to Celebrate Another Huge Win

Butler Deserves to Celebrate Another Huge Win

Star of the Game. Roosevelt Jones, Butler. A case could be made for Rotnei Clarke or Andrew Smith, but I just have to go with Jones. The scrappy sophomore filled up the stat sheet for the Bulldogs by finishing with 16 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists. Throughout many stretches of the game, Jones was the best player on the court for either team. Jones’ strong play in the first half kept Butler very much in a game that Indiana could have ran away with early.

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The RTC Podblast: Episode 5.5

Posted by rtmsf on December 14th, 2012

We’re back this Friday with a slightly longer-form RTC Podblast, as Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) hosts a discussion regarding the Catholic Seven’s breaking away from the Big East and many of the corresponding feelings we have about it. We also look forward to a jam-packed and presumably very entertaining Saturday worth of games.

Remember that our full podcasts (roughly 45 minutes to an hour long) will publish on Tuesdays during the season, while our shorter (~15-20 minutes) podblasts will drop on Fridays with a quick look at the intervening week’s worth of news and action. Feel free to jump around using the outline below.

  • 0-12:50 – Big East crumbling
  • 12:50-15:10 – Crossroads Classic preview
  • 15:10-18:06 – West coast teams looking to bounce back from tough losses at home (Creighton @ Cal, K-State @ Gonzaga)
  • 18:06-19:14 – Coaches vs former teams (Alabama @ VCU, Michigan vs West Virginia – WARNING: Nothing is wrong with the audio, Randy actually passed on a chance to hype the Wolverines)
  • 19:14-20:37 – Louisville @ Memphis
  • 20:37-24:07 – Florida @ Arizona

We welcome any and all feedback on these podcasts including topics for future discussion or if you want to send us any questions for our “May Not Be From Actual Listeners” segment. Hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com or @rushthecourt on Twitter.

Also make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after each recording. Thanks!

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Morning Five: 08.17.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 17th, 2010

  1. Let us introduce you to the Crossroads Classic, a new four-team event beginning in 2011 that will feature the major college basketball programs in the state of Indiana in a made-for-TV doubleheader — Purdue, Butler, Indiana and Notre Dame.  The 2011 and 2012 events will take place at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, with IU playing Notre Dame and Purdue taking on Butler in the first edition.  Indiana and Purdue will switch opponents in 2012, presumably leading to a back-and-forth matchup cycle for the life of this event.  We’re not old enough to remember the original Hoosier Classic that featured these four teams from 1948-60, but we do recall the “Big Four Classic” event in Indy from the late 80s/early 90s that matched IU and Notre Dame against Kentucky and Louisville in alternating years, and that was pretty cool.  Let’s hope this becomes a new annual holiday tradition with some staying power as well.
  2. Former Purdue head coach Gene Keady has been chosen as one of the 2010 recipients of the Joe Lapchick Character Award, annually given to coaches who have shown character traits over their career mimicking that of the former St. John’s legend.  At Purdue, Keady won six Big Ten championships and was invited to seventeen NCAA Tournaments, but he was never able to push through to the promised land of the Final Four, twice reaching the Elite Eight and losing in that round.  Still, he is widely regarded as a man of great integrity, pushing his players to a 90% graduation rate throughout his career, assisting USA Basketball and acting as president for the NABC at one point.  Bob Hurley, Sr., head coach at Jersey City St. Anthony’s, and Jody Conradt, women’s coach at Texas, will join Keady in accepting the award at the semifinals of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in New York on November 18.
  3. In a cost-savings measure, the NCAA announced yesterday that it would be cutting some of its drug-testing program to more effectively target the higher-risk sports and athletes for testing.  In other words, profiling.  Translation: if you play football, baseball, run track or lift weights, expect to see more of those nerdy-looking people in the white coats asking for urine samples.
  4. We hope to have more up on the ESPN 24 Hours of Hoops spectacuganza soon, but what if Transformers/The Rock/Armageddon director Michael Bay got his hands on the direction of this event?  Andrew Sharp of SBNation takes a look, and if nothing else, the photoshops are kinda funny.  Especially the one involving Bruce Pearl (paging Tyler Smith…).
  5. St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin is already thinking outside the box, in that he actually wants his team to have a nice locker room at its home arena, Madison Square Garden.  Imagine that!  Apparently the Red Storm have traditionally used an auxiliary locker room at MSG, but officials are exploring the possibility of allowing Lavin’s team to use the Knicks’ locker room for their home games.  And how long has it been since the Red Storm has been relevant?  We probably shouldn’t be amazed by this news, but we kinda are.
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