Posted on: April 4, 2010 12:18 pm
Edited on: April 4, 2010 12:39 pm

Butler's Howard will be a 'game-time decision'

INDIANAPOLIS -- Butler forward Matt Howard won't practice Sunday and will be a "game-time decision" for Monday's national title game against Duke, according to coach Brad Stevens.

Howard banged his head on the court in Saturday night's win over Michigan State and might have suffered a concussion, though Stevens was hesitant to describe it that way. "It's just enough that he won't practice today," Stevens said Sunday afternoon. Howard did not attend any of Sunday's media responsibilities here at Lucas Oil Stadium. Butler officials said he was at the hotel and would remain there.

Howard is averaging 12.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.

In another development, Butler guard Shelvin Mack said he will play against Duke.

Mack missed some of Saturday's game with cramps.

"I'll be ready to go," Mack said.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: April 3, 2010 2:29 pm

Rain not dampening spirit

INDIANAPOLIS -- Yes, it's raining here. But the streets are still full, the downtown mall still packed. There's a definite buzz around tonight's national semifinals, and it's a lot of fun to watch the four fanbases interact with each other, particularly when parts of the four fanbases are already completely hammered and wandering around.

It breaks down like this ...

The rowdiest fans: West Virginia
The best-dressed fans: Duke
The happiest fans: Butler
The fans most likely to roll their eyes at happy Butler fans: Michigan State

You can tell just from walking around that Michigan State fans (some, not all) are tired of hearing about Butler, and especially tired of hearing about Butler from Butler fans. "Go Bulldogs!," yelled one lady on the street, at which point a Michigan State fan responded, "Enjoy it while it lasts." And this is pretty much how it's going around here. Either way, I'm looking forward to seeing the crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium. It was wild yesterday when the lower bowl was filled for Butler's practice. Should be incredible today when 75,000 people come to watch Butler play in the Final Four six miles from the Butler campus.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 15, 2010 4:18 pm
Edited on: March 15, 2010 4:22 pm

Big Ten coaches must sign Big Ten players

Iowa announced Monday that Todd Lickliter is no longer its basketball coach after just three seasons, making him the third coach to be fired less than 24 hours after Selection Sunday. What's sure to come next is a parade of people pointing to Lickliter's demise and suggesting it's proof that the "grass isn't always greener," proof that coaches should be careful about leaving their small schools the way Lickliter left Butler.

But that's a stupid thing to suggest.

Leaving Butler for a bigger job worked out fine for Thad Matta.

It'll probably work out OK someday for Brad Stevens, too.

(And it made Lickliter wealthy, if nothing else.)

In other words, leaving Butler (or any non-BCS school) for a bigger job isn't the problem. The problem is leaving Butler for a bigger job but continuing to recruit Horizon League players; that's career suicide. Horizon players are great for the Horizon. But you can't win with them in the Big Ten, and that's the biggest reason Lickliter didn't win in the Big Ten.

He didn't recruit Big Ten players.

So now he's gone.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 2, 2010 12:54 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2010 12:58 pm

Dear Gary (on my ranking of Butler)

Here's Tuesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: You seem to be very cautious on ranking Butler close to their RPI of 14-17?  What gives?  Cold feet on the Bulldogs based on beginning of season non-conference losses?  Only questionable loss I see would be Minnesota.  Help me understand your thinking.

-- David

I tend to focus on good wins, good losses and bad losses, and form opinions based on that.

Who've you beaten?

Who's beaten you?

Anything terrible?

Those are the first three questions I ask of any school. It's an approach that allows me to typically gauge teams accurately, although there is a flaw, and that flaw is that it penalizes non-BCS teams that don't get enough done in the non-league schedule. Butler is a perfect example. The Bulldogs have a really good win over Xavier, a nice win over Siena, and not much else besides a perfect Horizon League record, which I admit is impressive if only because there's nothing simple about winning every game even when you have the best team in every game.

No, I don't put much stock into the win over Ohio State. That's probably where I got crossed with the computers, because the computers show a win over Ohio State as a win over Ohio State, but we all know Evan Turner wasn't involved, and that must be considered. That said, I realize the Bulldogs are good, and I still think they'd be a nice dark horse pick to make the Final Four. It's just that they basically finished 3-4 against quality non-league opponents (and one of the wins was against an OSU team missing Turner), and when you focus on that the way I focus on that it's difficult to move Butler too high.

So keeping Butler in the 20s isn't a case of me having cold feet.

It's just the conclusion I reach when I rank teams the way I rank teams.

If you're looking for some good news, consider it is this way of doing things that made me keep Davidson unranked all season the season Stephen Curry led the Wildcats to the Elite Eight. I was so wrong about that team it was embarrassing. And I tell you that to tell you I know it's possible we'll look back in a month and agree I didn't give Butler enough credit for doing what it's done the past two months. Bottom line, I don't think Butler is a Top 10 team. But I do think Butler is a team that could end up in the Sweet 16, Elite Eight, maybe even the Final Four. I've never moved off that opinion. It's just that the body of works says No. 22 more than No. 12, or at least that's what it says to me.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 22, 2010 4:37 pm

The Poll Attacks

The same guy giving Mississippi State points has Duke ranked 12th.

He's a perfect target for the Poll Attacks .

AP poll: The only school receiving points in the AP poll that isn't also in Jerry Palm's latest Projecting the Field is Mississippi State. The Bulldogs got five points, and I had to know who gave those five points to them. So I did some investigating and discovered it was Ron Morris of The State newspaper in South Carolina. But when I saw his ballot I forgot about Mississippi State pretty quickly, because the Bulldogs' presence wasn't even the dumbest thing there.

The dumbest thing on Ron's ballot was Duke all the way down at No. 12.


Duke at No. 12?

Look, I admit, there are lots of ways to rank teams. You can rank with an emphasis on recent performances, rank using entire bodies of work, rank with your eyes, etc. But there's no way to rank teams that could lead to any reasonable human having Duke 12th.
The Blue Devils are 23-4 and in possession of the nation's second-best RPI. They're leading the ACC, they have NINE wins over projected NCAA tournament teams -- Gonzaga, Charlotte, Clemson (twice), Wake Forest, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland and Virginia Tech -- and only one loss to a team not projected to make the NCAA tournament (North Carolina State). All four losses came on the road. And yet Ron has Duke two spots behind Michigan State, a team with seven losses and just THREE wins over projected NCAA tournament teams.

I'd love to hear the explanation for that.

Coaches poll: Nobody loves Butler more than I love Butler.

I love the tradition, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Brad Stevens, the type of student-athletes on the roster, Gordon Hayward, the Bulldog mascot, and even Indianapolis ... or at least I favor Indianapolis over Detroit as a Final Four destination. Again, I heart Butler. But the Bulldogs' body of work is ho-hum at best, which is why their No. 10 ranking in the coaches poll is ridiculous.

Butler has topped exactly two teams (Ohio State and Xavier) good enough to earn at-large bids to the NCAA tournament, and the win over OSU came while Evan Turner had a broken back. In fact, Butler is just 2-2 against schools included in Jerry Palm's latest Projecting the Field thanks to wins over Siena and Ohio State (minus Turner, I can't remind you enough) and losses to Clemson and Georgetown. The Bulldogs have additional losses to Minnesota and UAB. So how that translates to a Top 10 ranking is one of the week's great mysteries.

It reminds me of Memphis last season.

The Tigers struggled in the non-league part of their schedule -- lost to Xavier, Georgetown and Syracuse -- and were unranked when league play began. Then they ran through a bad C-USA, stacked wins and moved up the rankings in an undeserving manner before Missouri ran them off the court in the Sweet 16. This is exactly the same. Butler was unranked heading into its first Horizon League game, but the Bulldogs have defeated one bad team after another and similarly moved up the rankings in an undeserving manner.

Simply put, Butler's ranking doesn't match Butler's accomplishments.

I like the team.

And, for what it's worth, I think this Butler team is better than last year's Memphis team.

But 10th in the country with that body of work is way too high.

I have the Bulldogs 22nd.

That's closer to accurate.
Posted on: December 30, 2009 12:21 pm

Dear Gary (on Butler's ranking)

Here's Wednesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: Explain to me how Butler can possibly be ranked in anyone's Top 25? I just don't get it.

-- Magee

I didn't rank Butler for the first time all season, but I don't have a huge problem with those who did. The Bulldogs' 8-4 record doesn't look too hot, I admit. But none of the losses are bad losses, and they've got two good wins.

Take a look:

----- BUTLER -----

Record: 8-4
Notable wins: No. 15 Ohio State (home), No. 25 Northwestern (away).
Losses: No. 13 Georgetown (neutral), No. 21 Clemson (neutral), No. 24 UAB (away), Minnesota (neutral)

If you want to look at this positively, you'd point out that Butler has what appears to be a nice road win at Northwestern, and no losses to teams that aren't on pace to make the NCAA tournament. That's good. On the other hand, the win over Ohio State came while Ohio State was missing its best player, the UAB loss was lopsided, and a real Top 25 team probably ought to be able to get either Georgetown, Clemson or Minnesota on a neutral court.


I can see both sides.

So if you want to rank Butler, I'm OK with it.

If not, that's fine, too.

In reality, the Bulldogs are probably in that 20 to 35 range.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: December 2, 2009 4:46 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2009 4:47 pm

Dear Gary (on why I ranked Butler but not Cal)

Here's Wednesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: Don't you have to Poll Attack yourself this week. One week ago you dropped Cal from the rankings for losing to two quality teams, but this week you kept Butler in the rankings with losses to two quality teams. It is not a perfect correlation, but with two losses, I don't understand how Butler remains in the Top 25 (and one).

-- Mickey

It's a fair question, Mickey, but I think I have a reasonable explanation. First, I always had Butler ahead of California, so Cal didn't have to fall as far as Butler did to drop out of the rankings. Beyond that, Butler was in both of its losses, meaning the Bulldogs could've won either game. They trailed Minnesota by just four points with 90 seconds remaining, led Clemson most of the game before losing in the final seconds. Meantime, Syracuse ran Cal off the court, won 95-73. Next night, Ohio State led the Bears by 24 early in the second half, point being that the game wasn't nearly as close as the final score of 76-70 indicated.

So Cal's two losses were worse than Butler's two losses, I think.

Thus, Cal drops out and Butler remains in.

Simple, right?
Posted on: November 30, 2009 10:05 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2009 4:20 pm

The Poll Attacks

I just returned home from California.

I'm sick.

I'm tired.

I'm sick and tired of dumb voters.

The only cure is to Poll Attack the stupid and their stupidity.

AP poll: You know how people eat turkey on Thanksgiving, then get really tired and fall asleep?

That's got to be what happened to John Bohnenkamp.

How else to explain Bohnenkamp -- the sports editor of The Hawk Eye newspaper in Iowa -- putting Illinois at No. 21 on his AP ballot despite the Illini losing to unranked Utah on Friday and unranked Bradley on Saturday? It's the type of inexplicable move on which the Poll Attacks were created. Understand, Utah has losses to Idaho and Seattle, plus a 77-55 loss to Oklahoma State while Bradley has double-digit losses to BYU and Oklahoma State. So it's not like the Illini lost to Syracuse and Texas over the weekend. They lost to Utah and Bradley. And it's not like the Illini have great wins to offset the bad losses. They've only beaten Wofford, Northern Illinois, Presbyterian and SIU-Edwardsville.

So how does a 4-2 team with no good wins and two bad losses end up No. 21 on Bohnenkamp's ballot?

I have no freaking idea.

He's either still asleep, clueless or careless.

There's no other explanation.

Coaches poll: Do the games matter?

That's a serious question.

Do. The. Games. Matter?

I ask because I sat courtside in Anaheim last Thursday and watched Minnesota beat Butler 82-73, at which point the Gophers advanced to the semifinals of the 76 Classic while the Bulldogs went into the consolation bracket. Minnesota went on to finish 1-2 in the 76 Classic with a win over Butler and losses to Portland and Texas A&M, ending the week with an overall record of 4-2. Likewise, Butler went on to finish 1-2 in the 76 Classic with a win over UCLA and losses to Minnesota and Clemson, ending the week with an overall record of 4-2.

In other words, Minnesota and Butler had the same record last week.

They have the same record now.

And their records only include reasonable losses.

Honestly, there isn't much difference between Butler's body of work of Minnesota's body of work, except for that Butler doesn't have any notable victories and Minnesota has one notable victory ... over Butler! So shouldn't that be the tiebreaker? Shouldn't Minnesota's win over Butler have Minnesota ranked ahead of Butler? Of course it should. But Butler is No. 20 in the Coaches poll and Minnesota is ninth in "others receiving votes." That sort of logic -- or lack of logic -- is also what has Michigan State ranked No. 9 and Florida ranked No. 17 even though Michigan State is 5-1 with a loss to Florida while Florida is 6-0 with a win over Michigan State.

So I ask again: Do the games matter?

To me, they do.

That's why I have Minnesota ahead of Butler and Florida ahead of Michigan State, because head-to-head competition (particularly on a neutral court) should serve as a tiebreaker when two schools' bodies of work are similar. Minnesota's body of work is similar to Butler's body of work just like Florida's body of work is similar to Michigan State's body of work. The only differences are that Minnesota beat Butler and Florida beat Michigan State. They should be ranked accordingly at this point in the season unless, of course, the games don't matter.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com