Posted on: November 27, 2009 12:23 am
Edited on: November 27, 2009 12:28 am

That wasn't the Butler I know and love

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Butler turned the ball over 21 times, shot 21.7 percent from 3-point range and endured a 30-minute stretch during which All-American candidate Gordon Hayward did not make a field goal. So yeah, the 12th-ranked Bulldogs lost 82-73 to 22nd-ranked Minnesota late Thursday. But before dismissing them as all hype, it's important to understand that just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and that Butler is unlikely to be off in so many different ways too often.

"We did not play as well as we would've liked," said Butler coach Brad Stevens. "Give Minnesota credit."

Indeed, Minnesota deserves some credit. The Gophers used a balanced attack (five players with at least nine points) and deep bench (46 of the 82 points came from reserves) to fluster Butler, and that Tubby Smith's team shot 47.4 percent from 3-point range didn't hurt, either. So I guess what I'm saying is that Minnesota was about as good as it could be and that Butler was about as bad as it could be. And though those things probably have something to do with each other, I'm not going to let Thursday's loss greatly alter my opinion of the Bulldogs.

Another loss Friday, though, and I'll have to reshuffle.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: November 25, 2009 12:21 pm

I'm spending Thanksgiving in Anaheim

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- I'll be spending the next four days less than a mile from Disneyland, where the eight-team 76 Classic has somehow put together the best field of any early season tournament given how all eight schools involved have reasonable expectations to make the NCAA tournament.

Butler is the Horizon favorite, Long Beach State is the Big West favorite, and West Virginia, Clemson, Minnesota, Texas A&M and UCLA are each expected to, at the very least, earn an at-large bid. The only 76 Classic participant not in my preseason Projecting the Field is Portland. But the Pilots are 3-0 and widely viewed as Gonzaga's biggest threat in the West Coast Conference. They already own a win over Oregon. They could get their second victory over a Pac-10 team Thursday when they close the first day of action with a game against Ben Howland's Bruins.

"If you're a collegebasketball fan, this is a great time of the year," said Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon. "This is a fantastic field. When we [agreed to be a part of it], we knew it was going to be a good field. But they've added a couple of teams since then. There are four teams in the Top 25, and we're not one of them, and we like to think we're pretty good. So it's a great field."

The four Top 25 teams in the field are No. 8 West Virginia, No. 12 Butler, No. 19 Clemson and No. 22 Minnesota. All five power-conference schools involved (West Virginia, Clemson, Minnesota, Texas A&M and UCLA) plus Butler made the NCAA tournament last season. Click this link to check out the bracket.
Posted on: November 24, 2009 11:31 am
Edited on: November 24, 2009 11:31 am

Dear Gary (on the best games for this week)

Here's Tuesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: What game are you most looking forward to this week? I, for one, am digging my Minnesota Golden Gophers testing out a big-time program in Butler on Thursday night. Your thoughts?

-- Magee

I'll be in Anaheim for the 76 Classic, so I'll see Minnesota-Butler. It should be great, as will the entire event. Six of the eight participants made the NCAA tournament last season, four of the eight are currently ranked in the AP Top 25 (specifically No. 8 West Virginia, No. 12 Butler, No. 19 Clemson and No. 22 Minnesota). So regardless of how this unfolds, it's going to be tremendous. The championship game is slotted for Sunday night. Butler against either Clemson or West Virginia would probably be the most intriguing matchup.

Elsewhere, we could get UConn vs. Duke on Friday night in the finals of the NIT Season Tip-off.

That would be excellent.

Looking forward to Florida-Florida State tonight, too.
Posted on: November 16, 2009 6:54 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2009 7:20 pm

The Poll Attacks

The AP and Coaches polls make less sense than signing Allen Iverson.

I'll tell you why right now.

It's time to Poll Attack !

AP poll: Proof that the Poll Attacks are making an impact came Monday when I learned that Bill Cole ranked the Butler Bulldogs. This is a massive development because, for those who don't remember, Bill was the only AP voter who didn't have Butler on his preseason ballot, which caused me to dedicate a large portion of the preseason Poll Attacks to his inexplicable decision.

I didn't understand why Bill ranked UCLA but not Butler.

It made no sense.

I said so.

And Bill responded this week by moving Butler onto his ballot and dropping UCLA completely despite nothing of note happening with either team between the time his first and second ballots were filed. The only thing that happened is that Bill got Poll Attacked , and he adjusted his ballot to (presumably) avoid another beating. It makes me proud, honestly. I'm bringing change to America one ballot at a time.

In a related note, I'd like to take a moment to make sure Elton Alexander, Al Balderas, Pat Ridgell, Charles Goldberg and Jason Groves understand the season started last week. They all included Mississippi State on their latest ballots, this despite Mississippi State -- at best a borderline Top 25 team in the preseason -- losing its season opener at home to Rider by an 88-74 margin.

Come on, guys.

Try to keep up.

Coaches poll: Remember the preseason Coaches poll and how I pointed out that Southern California/USC getting 22 points was ridiculous? I surmised those "USC" votes must've been intended for South Carolina , and that the geniuses who tabulate the votes incorrectly credited them to Southern California.

No doubt, that's what happened.

Because Southern California got zero points in this week's Coaches poll.

That's more like it.

But what's confusing is that South Carolina got zero points, too.

It's crazy.

South Carolina got one point in the preseason Coaches poll, and if we're assuming the 22 "USC" points should've also gone to South Carolina then it's fair to assume South Carolina should've received at least 23 points in this week's poll. Instead, the Gamecocks beat Alabama A&M by 38 and lost its one point and the other 22 that we're incorrectly credited to Southern California. The only explanation is that the coaches simply wanted to avoid confusion and declined to vote for Southern California, South Carolina, USC or anything close to any of those things. Poor Darrin Horn. Guy might never be ranked again.
Posted on: November 10, 2009 4:04 pm
Edited on: November 10, 2009 4:10 pm

Dear Gary (on why Butler can get a great seed)

Here's Tuesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary:
I love Butler, and I root for them to do well.  However, there is no freaking way they get a 3 seed (like you projected ).  For them to get a 3 seed they would have to have only 1 loss.  They will lose more than that and when they do the selection committee will kill them.
-- MasterTim

You're thinking of Butler in the traditional sense and not this Butler with this schedule.

This Butler has games against Ohio State, Georgetown, Xavier, Northwestern, Minnesota, plus possible games in Anaheim against UCLA and West Virginia, plus a BracketBuster game to be determined. With that schedule (and the necessary wins plus an expected waltz through the Horizon), Butler can absolutely get a top three seed.

Consider: The Horizon has been rated better than C-USA three of the past four years, and Memphis (of C-USA) has still earned two No. 1 seeds and two No. 2 seeds in that span. How? Non-league success, that's how. And Butler is in a position to do something similar if it wins the right games and doesn't lose the wrong ones.

Will it happen?

Who knows?

But can it happen?

Yes, absolutely.
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Butler
Posted on: March 19, 2009 1:43 pm

Suddenly, LSU is in a hostile arena

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- When this LSU-Butler game tipped the Greensboro Colisuem was mostly empty. But now it's nearly full in anticipation of North Carolina's tilt with Radford, and -- surprise, surprise -- pretty much everybody not wearing purple seems to be pulling for Butler.

As I type, LSU is up 41-40.

But the Tigers will essentially play the final 16 minutes as a road team.

What can I say, folks like to cheer for the little schools.

Category: NCAAB
Tags: Butler, LSU
Posted on: March 11, 2009 12:33 am

Butler just killed some bubble team

You want a list of teams that hate Butler right now?

It would start with Creighton.

And include Penn State.

And Arizona.

And Florida.

And Miami.

And Maryland.

And South Carolina.

And every other school resting on the bubble.


Because Butler's 57-54 loss to Cleveland State in Tuesday night's title game of the Horizon League tournament made the Horizon League a two-bid league, which means one of the 34 at-large bids must now go to Butler, which means one less bubble team will make the NCAA tournament. Put another way, the "last team in" Jerry Palm's Tuesday morning Projecting the Field was Saint Mary's. If you accept that as reality, Saint Mary's would now be out of the bracket, banished to the NIT, all because Butler missed 15 of 19 3-point attempts and lost a home game to a team it had already beaten twice.

That was good news for Cleveland State.

But bad news for Saint Mary's.

And Creighton.

And Arizona.

And Florida.

And Miami.

And Maryland.

And South Carolina.

And every other school resting on the bubble.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 21, 2009 4:41 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2009 4:44 pm

Hayward, not Curry, the star on this Saturday

The nation tuned in to see Stephen Curry.

Now everybody is talking about Gordon Hayward.

The Butler freshman finished with a career-high 27 points and nine rebounds in the Bulldogs' 75-63 victory at Davidson in which he outshined Curry's star while introducing himself to a country that doesn't see enough Horizon League basketball. Despite the hostile environment and big stage, Hayward looked comfortable from start to finish. He made six of 12 field goal attempts and 11 of 12 free throws, further proving that his decision to focus on hoops instead of tennis was a wise one.

And he was a pretty good tennis player, too.

"This is the first time he's really been playing basketball for 12 (consecutive) months because he's been such a good tennis player for so long," Butler coach Brad Stevens said Saturday afternoon by phone, noting that his 6-foot-8 wing spent many summers playing tennis instead of basketball, which explains why Hayward was an unheralded recruit according to most scouting services. "He's a good player and an easy guy to coach. He's a great kid and a great student, and it's fun to be around guys like that."

As for Curry, well, he looked out of sorts.

He played for the first time since spraining his ankle last weekend and appeared to have no rhythm or feel, though it would be wrong not to give Butler some credit for making things difficult. No question, the Bulldogs did a great job on the All-American. But Curry missed a lot of shots he usually makes and actually started 0-of-8 from the field before finishing 6-of-23 with 20 points and seven turnovers.

Still, Stevens never felt comfortable, even late.

"Steph is so good," he said. "You're just sitting there saying, 'Please don't be another chapter in this book.' Up 13 with four minutes to go or whatever, that's what you're thinking. 'Please don't be another chapter in this book.'"

To Butler's credit, it was not.

Instead, the Bulldogs exited Belk Arena with a nice road win.

And they looked like a team worthy of keeping their national ranking.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com