Katz's five observations from the week

December, 18, 2011
12/18/11
8:45
PM ET
Before we begin a new week of games, here are five thoughts from the past seven days:

1. Butler’s comeback over Purdue at the Crossroads Classic on Saturday was a reminder of just how special the Bulldogs have been in the past three years. Of course the talent isn’t the same with this group and there are no for-sure NBA players on the roster these days. But this team has terrific desire and absolutely no quit. Butler has a long road ahead to be an NCAA team again. The Horizon League is very competitively balanced and you certainly can't consider the Bulldogs the favorites in a group that includes Cleveland State, Milwaukee and Detroit (with Eli Holman back). But Butler isn't going away. That much is for sure.

2. It was easy to think Michigan would take a step back without Darius Morris. But what we never know and what remains an unpredictable venture is projecting just how much of an impact freshmen will make on a roster. Well, Trey Burke has been a stud for the Wolverines and has allowed Tim Hardaway Jr. even more freedom. Burke scored 19 points, dished out four assists and made all four free throws against Alabama A&M. When everything is clicking, this Michigan offense is so much fun to watch.

3. Vanderbilt’s home losses to Xavier, Cleveland State and Indiana State say two things: Kevin Stallings scheduled up against teams outside the power six and that the Commodores no longer have a feared home court. Vandy is challenging itself but the Dores' inability to play with more purpose on late-game possessions at home is a danger sign for this team. SEC rivals will now come into Nashville confident that they can win unless the Dores do something to change that fast.

4. One player defecting in the first semester is unique, but now two elite freshmen have departed. Jabari Brown bolted on Oregon after two games and now Khem Birch is gone from Pittsburgh after 10. The Ducks had a player in reserve to replace Brown in Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph. But Pitt doesn’t have someone to fill in for Birch immediately. The team's depth takes a hit here, but it will be hard to project just how much until the Big East begins.

5. No other team in the country may have been hit harder by an ineligible player than Arizona State. Not having Jahii Carson has rocked the Sun Devils. Herb Sendek was expecting to build his team around an impact newcomer who could dominate the ball and create offense. Instead, ASU has slumped considerably and the low point came Saturday when Northern Arizona beat the Devils on a Stallon Saldivar 3-pointer with less than a second remaining. That gave NAU interim coach Dave Brown a win after head coach Mike Adras had resigned earlier in the week.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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