Category Archives: Butler

Thoughts on Saturday’s NCAA games

DAYTON, Ohio – Just some thoughts on today’s NCAA tournament games below.

I actually didn’t do terribly in trying to help with my analysis earlier this week. On my “official” bracket I guessed correctly on 23 of 32 first-round games, and considering the number of upsets, I’m patting myself on the back.

I generally do. Here goes…

Michigan – VCU: To me, it’s the must-see game of the day, though there certainly will be good games at night. VCU probably isn’t as great as it looked against Akron, but Michigan has been trending in the wrong direction for a month now. Trey Burke will create scoring opportunities by beating VCU’s pressure, but Michigan’s inside struggles and inconsistent shooting are of major concern. VCU’s Troy Daniels is locked in, and I think the Rams win another one

VCU 68, Michigan 66

Michigan State – Memphis: The Spartans have a lot going for them, including an advantage inside with Derrick Nix and the home-crowd advantage in Auburn Hills. They’ll be a tough out for a gifted Memphis team that played a smart, steady game in holding off Saint Mary’s on Thursday. Expect a close one throughout, but wait ’til later for a true upset

Michigan State 65, Memphis 58

Colorado State – Louisville: Strange things happen in March, but not in this game.

Louisville 72, Colorado State 52

Harvard – Arizona: The wide-open West region gives us another intriguing pairing. Harvard comes in off a huge upset of New Mexico and won’t be intimidated on this stage. Arizona has the talent to make a deep run and should see the door open here, but don’t expect it to be easy. Maybe Mark Lyons vs. Ohio State next Thursday?

Arizona 67, Harvard 65

Oregon – Saint Louis: The Ducks aren’t your typical 12 seed and are playing their best basketball right now. So are the Billikens, who can play with anybody. Unfortunately, Louisville is probably next, but this will be an outstanding game.

Saint Louis 58, Oregon 55

Butler – Marquette: I’m not sure if anybody knows just how Marquette managed to win that game Thursday against Davidson. I am sure nobody wants to see Butler in a tournament setting. The longer the Bulldogs hang around, the more dangerous they become.

Butler 65, Marquette 60

Wichita State – Gonzaga: Not your typical No. 1 seed vs. No. 9 matchup, especially when compared to Louisville-Colorado State. Wichita State has guards, experience and won’t be rattled. Gonzaga seems to be playing a little burdened, and though I expect the Zags to be better than they were against Southern, I don’t think they’ll be good enough.

Wichita 63, Gonzaga 60

Cal – Syracuse: The Orange cruised over Montana by 47 in the first round and Cal showed it’s also not your typical 12 seed by running past UNLV. Cal has the guards (as previously advertised) to take on the Syracuse zone, and I’d expect the Bears to be right in it all the way. Upset Saturday? Yes, why not? Upset Saturday it is.

Cal 68, Syracuse 67

Office pool insights: East Region

A series of quick thoughts — all my own and strictly from what I’ve seen from attending 30+ games and watching hundreds of others — on each of the four regions in the NCAA tournament bracket. Enter bracket pools and waste valuable hours of your workplace’s time at your own risk…

East Region

OVERSEEDED: No. 3 Marquette. The Golden Eagles hung near the top of the Big East throughout conference season but just seem to be a step behind the other top seeds across the board. They got a tough draw, too, with an experienced Davidson team first and then the Butler-Bucknell winner looming if Marquette can win. Buzz Williams’ team is deep and has a unique player inside in 6’8, 290-pound Davante Gardner

UNDERSEEDED: No. 12 Cal. The Bears stumbled a bit down the stretch, getting eliminated in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals  by Utah and a miracle shot that sent the game to overtime. But Cal has the kind of talented backcourt that’s capable of making a run through the first weekend of the tournament and a go-to star in Allen Crabbe who could be a household name by next week. The first-round matchup with UNLV won’t be easy, but a No. 12 seed beats a No. 5 almost every year and Cal has the pieces to be the one to do it this year.

TRENDING UPWARD: No. 14 Davidson. The experienced Wildcats come in riding the nation’s longest win streak at 17, are the best free-throw shooting team in the NCAA tournament at 80 percent and have five players who shoot 37 percent or better on 3-point tries. Looking at the Butler-Bucknell/Marquette-Davidson pod, if you ask four people who comes out of that to the Sweet 16, you might get four different answers. Choose wisely.

TRENDING DOWNWARD: No. 4 Syracuse. The Orange finished the regular season with a 1-3 stretch. They flipped that by going 3-1 in the Big East tournament — and looking more like the team they’re capable of being — but spent a lot of energy in doing that, and the inconsistencies and cold-stretches that have haunted this team since late January could end their season sooner rather than later.

BEST FIRST-ROUND GAME: Butler vs. Bucknell. The team nobody wants to play in March against another off-the-radar team that’s suddenly a trendy upset pick. Points should be at a premium in this one.

BEST POTENTIAL GAMES: Syracuse vs. UNLV or Cal this weekend, Miami vs. Butler in the Sweet 16, Miami vs. Indiana in the Elite Eight.

PLAYER WHO COULD MAKE SOME NBA CASH: Shane Larkin, Miami. He’s played this season like he wants to be known for more than being Barry’s son, and he’s done a more than admirable job in that regard. Larkin has made big shots in big moments throughout the season, and he could be a few big ones away from being a prized NBA prospect.

NOT-TOTALLY-CRAZY OFFICE POOL PLAYS: Cal and Davidson to make mini-runs; Butler to be Butler for at least two games; Miami to not survive the first weekend — yet Miami to the Final Four isn’t crazy, either. Tough stuff, this bracket business.

SAFEST OFFICE POOL PLAY: Indiana to play in the Elite Eight.

Atlantic 10 statement on Xavier and Butler departing

Full text of the Atlantic 10 statement on Xavier and Butler leaving for the new Big East…

NEWPORT NEWS, Va.—Atlantic 10 Conference Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade released the following statement on the departure of Xavier University and Butler University.

“I wish Xavier University and Butler University all the best in their new conference. They are two outstanding universities with outstanding people; our partnership has been mutually beneficial and successful. As a longtime strong A-10 member, Xavier’s departure is unfortunate. Butler’s departure is a by-product of the chaotic conference realignment environment. BU’s association with the A-10 has been a fun ride this year; no regrets from the Atlantic 10 for providing a home for them during the 2012-13 season.

“As a conference, we anticipated this move and are prepared to proactively move forward. The A-10 is strong – we have 16 basketball teams participating in the postseason and will focus on them right now. NCAA Postseason is an exciting time not to be overshadowed by conference realignment.

“Lastly I would like to acknowledge both presidents: Rev. Michael Graham and James Danko for their cooperation and professionalism in their management of this issue. It has been an honor to work with and for them.”

Xavier, VCU tied atop A-10 standings

As January becomes February, who’s in first place in the Atlantic 10?

“Almost everybody” is not a bad answer.

The shiny, new A-10 is as competitive and as deep as advertised, and a little less than a full month into league play it’s anybody’s race. No. 10 Butler went to Saint Louis and got blitzed Thursday night, 75-58, dropping back to the pack at 4-2 in the league.

Mathematically, VCU and Xavier lead at 5-2. Five teams are 4-2, and LaSalle is 4-3. LaSalle has beaten both VCU and Butler.

The margin for error is very slim, and the fact that teams play one one conference opponent twice makes things even less predictable. Saint Louis and Butler will meet again in February. So, too, will Dayton and Xavier after they played to the buzzer on Wednesday night.

Xavier already beat Butler way back on Nov. 12, but that was a pre-scheduled non-conference game. The one that counts is at Butler in early March.

After a nightmarish December, not many would have seen Xavier atop the league now. It’s still a long way to March, and anything can happen. If these first few weeks have taught us anything, it’s that there’s no such thing as a gimme and that no team is going to win this thing without a few more losses and more than a little luck.

Butler statement on Rotnei Clarke

Following is Butler University’s full statement on Rotnei Clarke, who was injured and taken to the hospital during the Bulldogs’ win at Dayton on Saturday.

Senior Rotnei Clarke, who suffered a neck injury in Butler’s 79-73 victory at Dayton on Saturday (Jan. 12), was in Hinkle Fieldhouse on Sunday (Jan. 13) to receive treatment from Head Athletic Trainer Ryan Galloy.

The Butler scoring leader underwent an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) in Indianapolis on Saturday evening after returning from Dayton. He received treatment and did a light workout on Sunday. No time table has been set for his return.

“The MRI confirmed the presence of a significant neck sprain. His spinal cord and cervical discs were viewed normal,” said Galloy. “Right now, he’s sore and stiff, but he’s out of the collar. The next question is when he can resume contact.”

Clarke was injured in the first half of the game at Dayton. He came up with a steal and was attempting to score when he was fouled on the lay-up attempt and crashed into the basket support. He remained on the floor for eight minutes, and eventually was taken from the court on a stretcher. He was transported to Miami Valley Hospital, where it was determined that there was no fracture. He returned to Indianapolis with the Butler team.

Clarke transferred to Butler from Arkansas last year, and began his final collegiate season this year. He leads the 14-2 Bulldogs in scoring with a 16.3 average. He was ranked third in the Atlantic 10 Conference in scoring heading into the game at Dayton.

Pregame notes & thoughts: Butler at Dayton

DAYTON, Ohio – A few pregame thoughts and notes on today’s game between No. 17 Butler (13-2, 1-0) and Dayton (10-5, 0-1)…

**There aren’t many breathers in this year’s Atlantic 10, and this game qualifies as big for both teams. It might be bigger for Dayton as the Flyers are 0-1 in conference play and are at LaSalle next. Butler scored a huge road win at St. Joseph’s on Wednesday and has all sorts of momentum. Butler has lost just once since early November, to Illinois in the Maui Invitational championship game.

**As much as rankings don’t really matter, tangible proof of how much stronger the additions of Butler and VCU have made the A-10 can be found in this stat: After losing at VCU three nights ago, today marks the first time the Flyers have played back-to-back ranked opponents in-conference since the 1993-94 season when Dayton was a member of the Great Midwest Conference. It’s the first time they’ve played back-to-back ranked opponents, period, since the 2009 Puerto Rico tip-off.

**Butler coach Brad Stevens said this week that Dayton point guard Kevin Dillard might be one of the league’s best players. Dillard will have to play like it today. Butler is one of the nation’s best rebounding teams, has one of the top 3-point shooters in Rotnei Clarke and almost always plays an efficient game.

**Dillard leads Dayton at 15.1 points per game and 4.7 assists. He also has a team-high 21 steals. The Flyers have lost three of their last four.

**Butler’s starting point guard is walk-on Alex Barlow, a graduate of Cincinnati Moeller High School and the hero of Butler’s December upset of then No. 1 Indiana with the winning basket. Barlow’s parents are season ticket holders at Dayton, and Barlow said this week he’s seen “hundreds” of games at UD Arena through the years and played there every year in high school.

**Barlow scored 6 points in that Indiana game — as many as he scored the whole season last year as a freshman. He chose Butler after not falling in love with any of his Div. II scholarship offers and because he wants to be a college basketball coach one day. Stevens is a pretty good guy from which to learn — and now he’s counting on Barlow, who’s started the last eight games and is doing the little things — steals, assists, quality minutes — that Stevens always finds someone to do. His emergence at point guard has allowed Clarke to move to a more natural and more dangerous role off the ball.

**Said Barlow: “Obviously Butler is a great program. People talk about Butler’s magic, and what’s happened here is impressive, but it’s not really magic. It’s doing things the right way. There are no shortcuts. We’re not always the most athletic, most impressive team. It’s attention to detail and believing it’s going to work.”

College BB notes: Hoops marathon, Preseason NIT and more

College basketball just kind of sneaks up on people.

There are reasons for that, and most of them start with “football.”

Starting Monday night and through Tuesday, college basketball both commands and deserves a little attention. Gone are those gimmick games on aircraft carriers; here is the preseason NIT and a 24-hour college hoops marathon.

Of local interest Monday night is Bowling Green vs. Cleveland State at Michigan in the NIT. The winner plays Michigan (assuming Michigan beats IUPUI) on Tuesday night, with the winner of that game going to New York for next week’s semifinal. In another regional in Pittsburgh, we could have Pitt hosting C.J. McCollum and Lehigh on Tuesday night with a trip to New York on the line.

The 24-hour hoops marathon starts at 12:01 a.m. ET on Tuesday with West Virginia at Gonzaga, which whipped the Mountaineers in the NCAA Tournament last March to move on and play Ohio State. Eligible for West Virginia after sitting out last year is Dayton native and Dayton transfer Juwan Staten. Both of these teams should be NCAA Tournament games again.

Back in Ohio, Kent State hosts Temple at noon Tuesday and Xavier hosts Butler at 4 p.m. Gifted Xavier freshman guard Semaj Christon is expected to make his long awaited Xavier debut after sitting out the Musketeers’ opener.

**

Kent State is 2-0 in the hoops marathon, both in games played in the early morning. The Flashes beat Robert Morris in 2010 and won at West Virginia last year. Kent State is a young team this year but started its season with an impressive overtime upset of Drexel last Friday.

**

At Big Ten Basketball Media Day last month, I asked Michigan coach John Beilein if losing to Ohio in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year took anything from away from his team’s regular-season accomplishments that included sharing the Big Ten title with Michigan State and Ohio State.

“I don’t think it soured anything at all,” he said. “Our guys hated to lose. We wanted to keep going. But it was a good lesson about the NCAA Tournament and the margin of error. Sometimes you get the lucky bounce of the ball, and sometimes you don’t. Teams that play deep usually get a bounce or two.

“We’re motivated to try to win the Big Ten. We want to get to the NCAA Tournament every year, and when you get there you have to play well. We love playing in the Preseason NIT or something like this because we frame our season to say, ‘Here’s the first championship we can try to win.’

“Just getting out of Ann Arbor to get to New York is going to be difficult. Those two games back-to-back, that’s like being a high seed and needing to win those two games back to back in March. It’s great prep for what we hopefully will see if we can get back to the NCAA Tournament.”

**

Beilein on sophomore point guard, Columbus native and preseason All-American Trey Burke: “His physical development has been very good. He’s gotten stronger. He has strong hips and a stronger lower body. When you’re only 6-feet tall, there are many times you have to be able to go under somebody and be strong enough to do that, and he’s really done a great job working on that.”

**

A clerical error by the compliance department — and not something either player did — has Akron forwards Nick Harney and Demetrius Treadwell suspended for the first three games of the season. They missed an overtime loss at Coastal Carolina last Friday and will miss tonight’s game vs. John Carroll and the opener of the Puerto Rico Tipoff Classic.

Suffice to say Akron probably wouldn’t have lost that game with those guys playing and point guard Alex Abreu (ankle) at 100 percent. Abreu is trying to get back to full speed as the Puerto Rico tournament will be played five minutes from where grew up.

The Zips are loaded again, and because Ohio won the MAC Tournament and went to the Sweet 16 last year, it’s easy to forget that Akron won its first MAC regular-season title. There were — and still are — much higher aspirations around the Akron program this year than the first-round NIT exit that ended last season. This is a team good enough to go to Puerto Rico and make a statement, but it will be tough to beat a team as talented as Oklahoma State in the first round without Harney and Treadwell, two of the Zips’ most gifted players.

Also in what’s a very good field in Puerto Rico are NC State, UMass, Penn State, Tennessee, Providence and UNC-Asheville.

Kent, Xavier will host tip-off marathon games

Two Ohio college basketball teams will get unique national exposure on Tuesday, Nov. 13, when they participate in the ESPN tip-off marathon.

Kent State will host Temple at noon, and Xavier will host Butler at 4 p.m.

The tip-off marathon event features 24 consecutive hours of live college basketball, starting at midnight ET as Monday turns to Tuesday and going through the day and night before a neutral-site game between Duke and Kentucky tips at approximately 9:45 p.m. to conclude the event.

The Xavier-Butler game is especially unique because the schools are now both members of the Atlantic 10 Conference. The tip-off marathon game, which has been under contract since last winter, will not count as a conference game.

Kent State has won early-morning tip-off marathon games in each of the last two years, defeating Robert Morris at home in 2010 and winning at West Virginia last year.

This year’s event starts with West Virginia at Gonzaga at midnight ET. The Zags are expected to play a return game at West Virginia in the 2013-14 season.

With Butler in, A-10 wins realignment race again

You’ve heard of this whole realignment thing that’s reshaping college sports and threatens the future of several conferences, including the Big East, right?

No conference has done this wave of it better than the Atlantic-10.

While it’s football TV revenue that drives realignment in the first place, the A-10 is a basketball-first league that’s strengthened its basketball profile and overall quality. Both of 2011′s Cinderella Final Four teams, Butler and VCU, have joined the league and will begin play next fall.

Butler’s announcement came Tuesday afternoon. The previous plan had Butler remaining in the Horizon League for one more season. The A-10 will have 16 teams next basketball season.

The A-10 lost Temple (after the 2012-13 year) to the Big East, and that’s a significant loss. But getting Butler meant the conference got about as good a replacement for Temple as it could have hoped for, and getting VCU — and getting both immediately — is a slam dunk.

With Butler, Xavier and Dayton sharing the same air space, TV networks will put those games in key spots and rivalries should develop quickly. The same goes in Richmond, where the University of Richmond and VCU almost share the same zip code and aren’t far from the Philly schools. Butler’s Brad Stevens and VCU’s Shaka Smart are two of the country’s brightest young coaches and have become recognizable stars. This is a win-win situation for all involved.

Let’s be honest: Stevens and Smart won’t be at their current schools forever. Great, great move by the A-10 to ensure they’ll be in the conference for at least one year.

Both VCU and Butler bring back plenty for the 2013 college basketball season, as do Temple, Dayton, Saint Louis and St. Joseph’s. If Xavier’s highly-touted are freshmen are ready, the Musketeers could be an NCAA Tournament team again as well.

Might the A-10 be a five or six-bid league next March? It’s certainly possible. It’s definitely going to be a conference worth watching.