College Basketball Nation: Butler

3-point shot: Big East’s big plan

September, 5, 2013
9/05/13
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1. The Big East will announce its conference schedule on Thursday and according to at least one source the league will end the season as it should -- with its highest-profile series between Georgetown and Villanova in Philadelphia. The Big East has a few historical rivalries and the chance to build a few long-term matchups like Creighton-Marquette and Butler-Xavier. The Big East has the opportunity to maximize its traditional teams, especially rivalries and now has a real chance to bookend its first season as a 10-team league with quality games. The Big East and its television partner Fox had already announced a New Year's Eve opening day of five games -- St. John's at Xavier, Seton Hall at Providence, DePaul at Georgetown, Villanova at Butler and Marquette at Creighton. The conference is making the right call in highlighting its two highest-rated teams for television on the final game of the regular season.

2. Nebraska coach Tim Miles said his players were "stunned" when they walked into the Cornhuskers’ new 15,147-seat Pinnacle Bank Arena. "The new facility is off the charts,'' said Miles. "Every seat is sold for men's basketball games, for every concert.'' Miles needed a home opener that popped. He said he thought immediately of Florida Gulf Coast after watching "Dunk City" in the NCAA tournament. "Once they exploded, nobody wanted to play them so they were an easy pick,'' said Miles of the Nov. 8 game on BTN. "I told [new FGCU coach] Joe Dooley that you're getting an $85,000 [guarantee] check to go 0-1. The Big Ten put us on the road for the first two games [at Iowa and at Ohio State after a nonconference game at Cincinnati] but gave us a great opener in Michigan (Jan. 8, ESPN2) with our students in session. The story is our arena, our practice facility. The team, we'll see. We're young.''

3. Miles' former assistant and successor at North Dakota State, Saul Phillips, got a five-year extension to stay with the Bison last week. Phillips is that rare breed who loves where he is at a level out of the limelight and doesn't look at his gig simply as a stepping stone. Phillips took the team he built with Miles into the 2009 NCAA tournament in their first season eligible in Division I. So, why stay? "I have too many winter coats that would go to waste if I moved,'' said Phillips in jest. "I love my AD here. That's a big part of it.'' Phillips would like to see the Bison get a new arena, something MIles is enjoying at his new gig. "We've raised 30 million privately on a 34-million-dollar arena,'' said Phillips. "We get that done and we can be a good mid-major year in and year out.''

Daily awards: Dunham leads the way

November, 21, 2012
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Player of the Night (non-Jack Taylor edition) – Jeff Withey

Withey became just the fourth player in Big 12 history with 25 points and seven blocks in a game, as Kansas topped St. Louis 73-59. It’s been 10 years Colorado’s David Harrison became the last Big 12 player to pull it off. In his case, it was a triple-double. Before Harrison, both Chris Mihm and Kelvin Cato posted at least 25 points and seven blocks.

Freshman of the Night – Kellen Dunham

Dunham scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half as Butler held off a late rally to upset UNC 82-71 in Maui. In the span of less than five minutes, he connected on four 3-pointers to keep the Tar Heels at arm’s length. Dunham showed why his ESPN 100 recruiting profile called his shooting “akin to a master craftsman applying his trade.”

Strange Stat Line of the Night – Brian Barbour

Columbia stunned Villanova 75-57, to give the Lions their first win over a Big East opponent in 27 years. It came courtesy of a bizarre game from leading senior Brian Barbour. He sunk all 12 of his free throws, but went just 1-for-12 from the field. That included missing all eight of his 3s. The last player with an even more striking disparity between free throws and field goals was Vermont’s Tony Orciari in 2000. He went 0-for-10 from the field and 14-for-14 from the line in a game against Maine.

Stat Sheet Stuffer – Anthony Hickey

Hickey had something of a breakout game in LSU’s 102-95 win over Northwestern State. The sophomore guard finished with 21 points, seven rebounds, six assists and five steals. He’s the first SEC player to reach all of those numbers since Florida’s Corey Brewer in 2006. The last LSU player with a 20-5-5-5 game was Torris Bright in 2000.
Thanks to the annual national phenomenon that is March Madness, we know all about VCU now -- Butler, Gonzaga and George Mason, too.

But what does such awareness mean for schools that were not quite in the national consciousness before a magical men’s basketball tournament run? Millions of dollars, significant increases in student applications and even smarter students, according to various studies.

No school can afford the kind of publicity a deep run into the tournament offers. Studies done by media firms Borshoff and Meltwater for Butler University after it reached the title game the past two years show a combined publicity value for the university of about $1.2 billion.

Butler’s 2010 run to the national title game resulted in $639.3 million in publicity value, including $100 million from the CBS broadcast of the national title game. Last year’s appearance was valued at more than $512 million. Neither calculation included the publicity value of radio broadcasts or talk shows, but instead focused on television, print and online news coverage.

The exposure cascades off-court, as experts point to a positive correlation between athletic performance and application rates. They call it the “Flutie effect” after quarterback Doug Flutie, who was credited with a 30 percent increase in applications at Boston College the year after his Heisman Trophy win.

A 2009 study by brothers and economics professors Jaren and Devin Pope showed that just making it into the men’s NCAA tournament produces a 1 percent increase in applications the following year. Each round a team advances increases the percentage: 3 percent for Sweet 16 teams, 4 to 5 percent for Final Four teams and 7 to 8 percent for the winner.

The only way to achieve similar application increases would be to increase financial aid or reduce tuition by 2 to 24 percent, the study said.

"These numbers tend to be larger for private schools than for public schools," co-author Jaren Pope said. "For example, private schools in the Sweet 16 see a 4 percent to 5 percent increase in applications compared to a 2 percent to 3 percent increase for public schools."

Butler University experienced a whopping 41 percent increase in applications after its 2010 run to the title game. George Mason University saw a 54 percent increase in out-of-state applications following its 2006 Final Four appearance. And within a month of being defeated in the first round of the 2000 tournament, Central Connecticut State University saw application rates increase by more 12 percent.

The impact of admitting more out-of-state students can be profound. For example, George Mason’s in-state tuition rate is $9,066 per year, while out-of-state tuition is nearly three times as much at $26,544.

Rising application rates also can allow a school either to increase enrollment or be more selective. The Popes’ study found that basketball success did not lead most schools to increase enrollment but did allow for increased selectivity.

The study concluded, “… schools which do well in basketball are able to recruit an incoming class with 1 to 4 percent more students scoring above 500 on the math and verbal SAT. Similarly, these schools could expect 1 to 4 percent more of their incoming students to score above a 600 on the math and verbal SAT.”

Will Gordon Hayward be back?

April, 15, 2010
4/15/10
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Other than perhaps Kyle Singler and Greg Monroe, Gordon Hayward was the one big name in college basketball who hadn't declared, one way or the other, whether he was going to declare. Would he stay for another year and go back at the title with Butler? Or take his skyrocketing NBA draft stock and run? The answer, as of late yesterday, is -- drum roll, please -- we don't know.

Hayward is doing what so many others in this class have done: He's testing the NBA waters without hiring an agent.

You know the drill here: Hayward will get out there, get a feel for how much NBA teams love him, do a few workouts, and then decide by the draft deadline whether or not he really wants to do this. The difference for Hayward is that there is a lot riding on a few draft spots. The Butler forward is currently a first-round lock, according to Chad Ford, which means he could go anywhere from the late lottery to late in the first round. Which means he could earn as much as, say, a No. 12 pick -- $1.63M in 2009-10's NBA rookie scale. Or, if he's drafted late in the first round -- say, No. 25 overall -- could earn as little as $900,000.

The question Butler fans might ask is whether that disparity would be enough to bring Hayward back for another year. If you can get in the lottery, great. You almost have to go for it. But if you're a low first-round pick, and you have Gordon Hayward's talent, and you think you can come back for a junior year and top yourself, do you do it?

There's also this to consider: Hayward's father, Gordon Sr., has been told that his son will be selected between Nos. 10 and 20 in the draft and likewise revealed that his son has received so many requests and prayers from Butler fans that he had to take down his Facebook page:
"He's pretty solid 10 to 20," Gordon Sr. said. "It's not an easy decision disappointing all the great and wonderful Butler fans, if it turns out that way."

In other words, it sounds like Hayward is intent on seeing this NBA thing through. He's not just testing for testing's sake. At the same time, if he doesn't hear good things in the between today and the draft deadline, he still has his amateur status and a loaded Butler team to welcome him back. That, my friends, is a win-win.

TMA: Transitional edition

March, 10, 2010
3/10/10
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The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of the night's best basketball action. Before we jump into today's insanity, here's an abbreviated look back on Tuesday night's almost-quiet affair. Oh, yeah: Try not to make it awkward. Catchphrase!

Seton Hall 109, Providence 106: Note to self: Don't turn off games that feature Seton Hall and Providence, even if one of the teams is up 76-47 with 13:36 left to play. Yes, Seton Hall led the Friars by 29 points with the final quarter or so of the game left, and it didn't really matter: Providence came back anyway, cutting the lead to three on Vincent Council's pull-up jumper with eight seconds remaining. The Pirates then missed two free throws, giving Providence a chance to tie; freshman Duke Mondy launched a bad three that hit the bottom of the rim as time expired. Seton Hall survived. Good thing, too, as the Friars are in desperate need of at least one more win -- tonight vs. Notre Dame could do the trick -- to get themselves off the bad side of the bubble and back, finally, into NCAA tournament consideration.

But anyway, to review: 109-106 after 76-47. Providence's Jamine Peterson scored 38 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. Seton Hall's Herb Pope had 27 and 11. Every starter on both teams scored at least 12 points. I want to play pickup basketball with Seton Hall and Providence. That looks like a lot of fun.

Everywhere else, quickly: Butler handled business in the Horizon League final, walloping Wright State 70-45 and completing the ever-rare perfect conference-plus-conference-tournament season. At 20 wins, the Bulldogs also retained the country's longest winning streak ... You've by now read all about UConn's ugly loss yesterday; Matt Norlander summed up the Huskies' season pretty well at The Dagger last night: "Anybody got a theory as to what this team was for the past five months?" I'm still stumped ... The College Basketball Nation blog (say it five times fast) warmly welcomes two more teams to the NCAA tournament: the Oakland Golden Grizzles and the North Texas Mean Green, two tremendous mid-majors with two tremendous mascot names ... In the A-10, Dayton and Rhode Island both preserved their fading tournament hopes with first round wins; Charlotte did not ... and Cincinnati barely squeaked past Rutgers to advance to the second day of the tournament, a day I'm greatly looking forward to.
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Saddle Up is our daily preview of the hoops your TV wants you to watch. Embrace the conference tournament fever! Here's Monday night's rundown.

William & Mary vs. Old Dominion, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: Who's ready for their close up? William & Mary and Old Dominion will play for the CAA Championship in Richmond, Va., tonight, a game that will be broadcast is as primetime a college hoops spot as possible. For many of you, it will be your first glimpse of two CAA teams on the court at the same time all year. What better time to study up than now? In that spirit, here's three important things to know about tonight's game. Impress your friends, or something:

  1. William & Mary has beaten every CAA team at least once in 2009-10 ... except for Old Dominion. The Monarchs beat the Tribe (let's take a second and appreciate just how awesome each of these teams' nicknames are, because they are awesome) twice this year, the first a three-point squeaker at William & Mary, the second a 19-point blowout at ODU.
  2. Old Dominion is far and away the more efficient team: The Monarchs are ranked No. 34 in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted efficiency rating, a full 80 spots ahead of William & Mary. Besides being the best offensive rebounding team per possession in the country (eat your heart out, West Virginia), the Monarchs make their bones on defense, where they're No. 18 in the nation, and where they hold opponents to 30.1 percent shooting from three. This is bad news for William & Mary, who rank fourth in the country in their ratio of 3-point attempts to field goal attempts; the Tribe shoot a tremendous amount of 3-point attempts, and if ODU can close out on shooters well, it could be a tough offensive night for the underdog.
  3. And what underdogs they are. Per ESPN researcher Jeremy Lundblad: "Since the advent of major college basketball -- or what we now call Division I -- in 1947-48, many teams have come and some have left D-I. However, only five have been playing major college basketball that whole time and never made the NCAA tournament. Northwestern, Army, William & Mary, Saint Francis (NY) and The Citadel were all part of the original 160 teams in D-I, but they were a collective 0-310 in trying to make the NCAA tournament entering this season." That number is now 0-313, as the Citadel, Army, and St. Francis have all bowed out of their respective conference tournaments. That leaves William & Mary fighting for their first NCAA tournament bid in history, a record that spans not only their own misfortunes but the misfortunes of several other clubs. Can the streak be broken? It'll be fun to find out.

St. Mary's vs. No. 14 Gonzaga, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN: The more things change, the more Gonzaga beats St. Mary's to win the WCC conference tournament outright. I'm pretty sure that's how that saying goes. OK, maybe not, but it certainly applies: The Gaels are in the exact same position they were last year -- stuck on the bubble and needing a win over the hated Bulldogs to ensure an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. The Gaels are in better shape than in 2009, though: Joe Lunardi has St. Mary's in as a No. 11 seed already. Last year required a hurried return from injury from star player Patty Mills, and it didn't matter. Gonzaga rolled over St. Mary's in the conference title game, ending the Gaels' long-shot hopes of sneaking into the tournament with one dominant 40-minute stretch of basketball. This year is a slightly different story -- St. Mary's is looking like an at-large team with or without tonight's win. But don't for a second think St. Mary's doesn't want to improve their seed, not to mention dish out a little bit of revenge for years of Bulldog dominance out west.

Everywhere else: Siena's at-large chances died with their BracketBusters loss to Butler, but if the Saints can complete their run through the MAAC tournament with a win over Fairfield in tonight's championship game, it won't matter ... When I think Appalachian State, I think "upset"; the Wofford Terriers would very much like to avoid any such thing in the SoCon title game ... the 16-14 IPFW Mastodons will face Oakland in one of the Summit League semifinals, while Oral Roberts and IUPUI do battle in the other ... Western Kentucky will look to get one step closer to going back to the NCAA tournament in its Sun Belt semifinal match up with Troy ... and Denver will face North Texas in the other half of Hot Springs's bracket.
VALPARAISO, Ind. -- Valparaiso coach Homer Drew has seen plenty of Butler teams in his 30 years of coaching -- much more so since Valpo made the switch from the Mid-Continent Conference to Horizon League in 2007 -- and his diagnosis of the 2009-10 Bulldogs after Butler's 74-69 win over Valparaiso Friday night was straightforward, simple, and full of gravitas. Oh, and it was accurate.

"They're the best Butler team I've seen," Drew said.

Bingo. But let's go one further: This Butler team isn't just the best in the history of the program. It's the best in the history of the Horizon League.

Those are the kind of accolades you can realistically bestow on a team that sealed an undefeated conference season Friday, and has the nation's longest win streak at 18. And they managed to do it without their best player and leading scorer, Gordon Hayward.

Hayward was sidelined by back spasms Friday night -- his condition is day-to-day, according to Butler coach Brad Stevens -- and Butler felt his loss. The Bulldogs trailed by one at halftime, the product of a feisty Valpo offense and an inability to get anything going with their own offense. For lack of a better cliche, Hayward is the straw that stirs Butler's rather rich offensive milkshake. Without him, Butler's offense loses its edge.

Then again, the Bulldogs managed to get to 17-0 in the Horizon League before Friday night for reasons other than their star player, and those reasons were evident at the Athletics Recreation Center Friday night. Forward Willie Veasley's outside shooting keyed the stretch that put the Crusaders away in the second half. Forward Matt Howard -- oh, by the way, the 2008-09 Horizon League player of the year -- towers over most Horizon League forwards and can score from either side of the bucket. Shelvin Mack is strong, controlled and effcicient. Ronald Nored is a lockdown defender. Zach Hahn is a pure shooter.

OK, you get the point. Which is this: Stevens has built a very deep, very talented team, a team that managed to go an entire stretch of 18 league games without losing a single one -- the first Horizon League team to ever go 18-for-18 (the fourth to go undefeated). No off nights. Not one upset. And from day one all the way back in January, very little hope for the rest of the league.

Butler's teams are always better than their conference opponents, but rarely are they this much better. After three years at the helm, Stevens deserves much of the credit.

"He's one of the bright young coaches in Division I," Drew said. "He's done a wonderful job."

Again, bingo. At just 32 -- and yes, the man looks even younger -- Stevens hasn't just built an elite program. He's also put himself atop the nation's list of hot young coaching prospects. He's officially a "name" -- a name you should prepare to hear every time a new coaching position becomes available, which is to say, all the time. (That sound you hear is Butler fans putting their fingers in their ears and singing "la la la can't hear you la la la." Who can blame them?) For tonight, though, Stevens and his team can pocket the future for a moment and instead spend some time reflecting on their truly impressive accomplishment: an undefeated conference season.

No upsets here. Butler is your Horizon League champ. Next stop, NCAA tournament. Now things get really interesting.
VALPARAISO, Ind. -- A few quick, random, rambling thoughts from tonight's Butler win before coaches address the media:

  • As the clock ran out in the second half, Butler's 74-66 lead fully safe, Valpo's Matt Kenney launched a shot from 25 feet and drained it. It didn't matter, of course; the buzzer sounded, and the game was over. What's too bad for the Crusaders is that this was only their fourth made 3-pointer of the entire game. They missed 21. Yes, Valpo was 4-of-25 from the 3-point line Friday night, a tally that very obviously doomed the Crusaders' upset chances.
  • You have to give the Crusaders credit for their effort -- after a solid and satisfying first half, Butler came out in the second half and, with a pair of 3s and a big Matt Howard dunk, punched Valpo in the mouth. But the Crusaders kept coming. They narrowed the 40-33 lead and tied the game at 44-44 by the 13-minute mark, retaking the lead in the next minute. It's easy to see why Valpo's offense is so good: Homer Drew's team just keeps attacking the rim, over and over, and what shots they don't make they aggressively hunt down on the offensive glass. The player you could most credit for this style is versatile forward Cory Johnson, who hit a variety of big ones from inside and out throughout the game, and who was relentless in his hunt for the ball on the offensive end. Johnson finished with 28 points.
  • In the end, though, Butler had just a little bit too much -- the Bulldogs wore Valpo down in the second half, getting easier looks than in the first half, much of them coming from forward Willie Veasley. Veasley's 20 points included a couple of big shots down the stretch that helped Butler eventually pull away.
  • That's how good this Butler team is. Missing their best player, a consensus first-round draft pick, Butler still has three capable scorers in Veasley, Matt Howard, and Shelvin Mack. It's not hard to see why this team dominated the Horizon League so thoroughly: Even when their opponents play well, the talent disparity is just too much.
  • Then again, Butler isn't so good that they can go deep in the NCAA tournament if Gordon Hayward isn't on the floor. There was some ugliness on display Friday night -- for much of the first half and parts of the second, Butler looked slightly lifeless and out of synch. That can happen against the Valpos of the world. It can't happen on March 18-19, not if the Bulldogs expect to survive.
  • Brad Stevens gets a lot of attention for being so young -- the coach is 32 and in charge of one of the country's best mid-majors -- but his coaching style might be more impressive than his age. From afar, at least, Stevens rarely seems to use anger or disappointment as a motivator. He isn't screaming. He isn't ostracizing. Rather, he's constantly encouraging -- he notably offered junior Shawn Vanzant two "come on, you're better than that" high-fives after a really silly turnover -- and never, with the exception of some heated conversations with the referees, seems anything but under control. Players want to play for this type of coach.
  • Valpo senior Brandon McPherson will be disappointed with his team's loss, but the night couldn't have gone much better for him. In his last game as a Crusader -- one in which he set the Valpo mark for most games played all-time -- McPherson scored 14 points, 11 of which came in a blistering first half. With a minute left in the second, McPherson left to a rousing standing ovation and a moving postgame speech from coach Homer Drew.
  • Speaking of Drew, the coach held Brad Stevens back for the dwindling crowd, congratulating Butler on the 18-0 record and calling Stevens "one of the bright young coaches in Division 1." Valpo fans and Butler fans applauded alike. Classy move.
  • For lack of a better phrase, one that might not make all that much sense, tonight's game felt like Indiana. The Friday night schedule time, the rivalry, the packed house full of fans, the fact that 10 of Butler's 15 players just so happen to hail from various parts of the Hoosier State -- all of it added up to a game that felt like Gene Hackman should have been on the sideline with a leather satchel in his hand. And it wasn't even at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Good times.
VALPARAISO, Ind. -- If Brad Stevens and the Butler Bulldogs want that perfect 18-0 conference record, they're going to have to earn it.

That's the lesson from Friday night's first half here, where the Bulldogs trail, 31-30, to a feisty Valpo team at halftime.

Butler is playing without leading scorer and NBA prospect Gordon Hayward -- who is sitting out with back spasms, no doubt disappointing the handful of NBA scouts in attendance -- and it shows. The Bulldogs are struggling to get into their offense, and their bigs (Matt Howard and Andrew Smith, specifically) have struggled to get clean looks on the interior.

Meanwhile, Butler is probably a little lucky not to trail by even more -- Valpo has managed to get to the hoop with regularity, and if the Crusaders, who average 38 percent from behind the arc, had made a few more threes (they were 0-for-10 in the first half) Butler would find its deficit far more overwhelming.

Willie Veasley (11 points, five rebounds, one block) has stepped up in a big way for the Bulldogs, finding productive looks off the dribble when the rest of the Bulldogs have looked offensively stagnant. It's hard to stress how much Hayward is missed; the Bulldogs clearly have the athletic ability to get good looks against a Valpo team that often seems lost on defense, but there's a lack of rhythm to Butler's offensive possessions that would be foolish not to attribute to Hayward's versatility.

Meanwhile, Valpo guard Brandon McPherson is having a dream night. In his last home game as a Crusader, the team's lone senior was honored at midcourt for Senior Night. Then, when he walked on the court, McPherson broke the Valpo all-time record for games played with 128. To top it off, he's played a very solid offensive game, leading his team with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting.

Pregame thoughts from Butler-Valpo

February, 26, 2010
2/26/10
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VALPARAISO, Ind. -- Butler. Valpo. It's the rumble in, um, northeast Indiana! OK, that didn't rhyme. Is Don King available? Let's get him on the line. We need a better name for this thing.

A late-season Horizon League game might not seem like such a big deal given the gap in talent between the 25-4 Bulldogs and the 15-15 Crusaders, but tonight's game has some special implications. If Butler wins, they'll go to 18-0, extending the nation's longest winning streak and, even more impressive, becoming the first Horizon League team ever to achieve a perfect 18-0 record in league play.

College basketball is not really supposed to work that way. The game is rigged. Statistical probability lingers over superior teams at all times. There are no best-of-seven series here; better players are no guarantee of success. That's why the NCAA tournament rules. Now stretch that tournament over 18 games. It takes a special team, a smart coach and, yes, a little bit of luck to remain unbeaten through a regular season. Butler's accomplishment -- avoiding upsets, night after night -- is already special. Tonight could cap it off.

To do that, the Bulldogs will have to contend with the Horizon League's most prolific scorer, Valpo sophomore Brandon Wood. Wood averages 17.9 points per game, has led Valpo in scoring in more than half of its games, and had perhaps his biggest game (albeit in a loss) in a 30-point explosion at North Carolina on Nov. 15. (Not that it matters, but that was back when we thought North Carolina was the No. 4 team in the country. Ha. Not so much.) Valpo is a young team that can score with anyone in the Horizon League -- they're No. 66 in the country in KenPom's adjusted offensive efficiency. The problem? Defense. The Crusaders are in the high 300's in the country in just about every important defensive category. Just look at all that red. Eesh.

Fortunately enough for Valpo, Butler's offense, while good, isn't nearly as good as its defense, which is ranked 24th in efficiency in the country. Maybe Butler comes out cold; maybe Valpo comes out hot; maybe the score stays close; maybe the Athletics Recreation Center's crowd gets really rocking. Maybe.

More likely than not, though, tonight's game will serve as a coronation for the best Horizon League season of all-time. The Bulldogs are already impressive. In 40 minutes, they could be historic.
  • Bob Huggins was not pleased with the officiating in Monday night's loss to Connecticut, so much so that he earned himself an ejection in the final minute -- one of those "I'm sick of this, I'm getting kicked out, which ref do I insult first" coach's decisions you see from time to time. After the game, though, Huggins was less direct: "You saw it. You're allowed to report on it. I'm not," Huggins said when asked about the effect of 46 fouls and 65 free throws -- 42 of them by UConn -- on the way the game played out. "That's a tremendous advantage."
  • Northern State coach Don Meyer announced Monday that he will retire after the current season is over. Meyer is the NCAA's all-time wins leader in college basketball for all divisions, followed by former Indiana and Texas Tech coach Bob Knight and current Philadelphia University coach Herb Magee. Magee plans to stick around a little while longer; Jameson Fleming at the Bleacher Report picked Magee's brain and found out why.
  • Did BracketBusters work? And just what does "work" mean? The Dagger's Jeff Eisenberg writes: "If the purpose of the Bracket Buster event is to help more mid-major teams play their way into the NCAA tournament, then there's no denying that this year's event was a colossal failure. In addition to Old Dominion and William & Mary, Siena's at large hopes vanished after a blowout loss at Butler and Wichita State's did so as well after falling at Utah State. [...] The solution to this, of course, would be to pit mid-majors against big-name opponents in the BracketBuster event, except few if any teams from the power six conferences would have anything to gain by such a format." Ballin' Is A Habit responds: "The bottom line? No matter who you play, you must win games to make the tournament. Old Dominion, Siena, and Wichita State lost games that would have helped their tournament resume. William & Mary lost a game it should have won. If ODU and Siena had both won, and that win helped the two teams to earn an at-large bid, people would be singing a much different tune about BracketBusters. So until a situation arises in which a team winning their BracketBusters game has a negative effect on their tournament résumé, I think BracketBusters is working just fine."
  • Hokies fans are predictably giddy about their team's late-season rise into the NCAA tournament bracket; here's a roundup of Virginia Tech's newfound bracketology love.
  • Gasaway's Tuesday Truths. More on this later, but Maryland is much, much better than the RPI folks seem to think. Oh, and here's more Gasaway, this time taking on the Purdue homers who insist on claiming this team is "old-fashioned" and "hard-nosed" (which they are, sort of) while completely ignoring what's made the Boilermakers of 2010 so much better than last season's counterparts: the offense!
  • Nebraska is 1-11 in the Big 12 and 13-14 overall, but Nebraska's athletic director isn't putting coach Doc Sadler's head on the chopping block. Rather, he's extending the always-welcome-when-it-seems-sincere vote of confidence, saying Sadler is the "right guy to get this thing done."
  • Michigan State's Kalin Lucas was frustrated Saturday. After losing to Ohio State in East Lansing -- and scoring a mere nine points on 3 of 13 shooting -- Lucas decided to pull a LeBron and blow off the postgame media question-and-answer session. On Sunday, Lucas called head coach Tom Izzo to apologize and tell him he felt bad about "leaving his teammates to explain" the loss. On Monday, Lucas joined Izzo at the coach's weekly news conference, where Lucas apologized to the media for ditching out. All things considered, a pretty classy move.
  • Doug Gottlieb (Insider) says he's heard Jim Calhoun has five-year contract extension from UConn "on his desk" and that Calhoun should sign it, thereby ignoring folks like me who think now's as good a time as any to experience the joys of retirement.
  • SB Nation's Andrew Sharp has some lighthearted fun with Vanderbilt's A.J. Ogilvy, and the many faces of A.J. (Of special note is Ogilvy's hair, which reminds of the kids I used to play club soccer with -- they loved to frost their tips. Like aging 90s country chicks and their relationship to mullets, I have an irrational soft spot for this hairstyle.)
  • Speaking of lighthearted fun, let's hope this budding Kent State sideline reporter -- and heir to the "Boom Goes The Dynamite" guy's legacy of student reporter hilarity -- can laugh at himself in the morning.
  • Barry Alvarez confirms: The Big Ten is indeed looking for another school, and has hired a research firm to look into 15 potential expansion additions. Not on this list? Texas and Notre Dame.

Yeah, Siena is probably done

February, 13, 2010
2/13/10
2:41
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Not done for the season, of course. The Saints have a very good team and an excellent chance to win their conference tournament, which is good news, because they're almost definitely going to need to.

Last night's loss to Niagara was a tourney-doomer for the Saints, and it's not hard to see why. Siena was a "maybe" for an at-large bid before last night's loss; their at-large chances largely rested on them finishing the regular season without adding to their four losses. A loss in the MAAC tournament after a perfect conference run would probably have been acceptable. But a loss to Niagara hurts the Saints, because, quite simply, Siena hasn't proven itself against top-notch competition. The Saints squandered their three chances to get wins against teams in the top 50 of the RPI -- with losses to Temple, Northern Iowa and Georgia Tech -- and despite a top 35 RPI, have zero quality wins to speak of.

This is why it's tough to be a mid-major. Ask UNI, or Butler. These teams can be ostensibly talented enough to get in the NCAA tournament, but one or two slip-ups in the regular season -- the kind of thing even elite teams like Kansas do from time to time -- and we automatically remove them from tournament consideration. Plus, few "quality" major teams will play these teams on neutral courts or at their own arenas, so their only opportunities to get quality wins come on the road. Siena is a classic example, and it's borderline unfair.

Then again, there are those that still think Siena can make the NCAA tournament as an at-large. It's not impossible. More likely, though, is that Siena has to win it from March 4-8, when the MAAC tournament convenes in Albany, NY. It's a bummer. It'd be awesome to have Siena in the tournament again. But this is how things work.
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MAAC

The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of the night's best action. Thought for the morning: Even if you have to work on Saturday, Friday still feels awesome. That never goes away. Why is that? What's so special about this day? Anyway, per the usual, try not to make it awkward.

No. 7 Purdue 78, Indiana 75: It's hard to say when Indiana fans are going to start feeling discouraged by games like Thursday night's loss to highly ranked and obviously superior rival Purdue, when they won't be able to take moral victories away from losses like this, when their patience will eventually run out. It isn't happening yet, and it shouldn't -- and last night's game proved why. Sure, the Hoosiers didn't pull out the victory. But for a team that started last year's season with one returning player, and is relying on freshmen and sophomores and two transfers, lost its high scorer and most promising youngster Maurice Creek to a kneecap fracture in late December, to stay with Purdue up to a last-second Verdell Jones three that hit the front rim, well, that's an accomplishment. The Hoosiers played hard. They never gave up. The crowd was rocking. For a moment, you could forget the Hoosiers were still in rebuilding mode; the team and the arena and everyone else seemed to forget it too. It was just Purdue-Indiana, just like the good old days. That this was even possible is a testament to the job Tom Crean has done at IU. He hasn't been perfect, to be sure, but if teams take on the personality of their coaches, Crean is one hard-working, thorough, and determined dude -- and IU will be back in the top 20 sooner rather than later.

Give some credit to the Boilermakers, too. It's not easy to win in Assembly Hall, even when the team there isn't vintage Indiana. This year's Boilermakers are the first team to do so since 1999. How'd they do it? They kept up with a torrid Hoosiers offense with buckets of their own, and they took advantage of their size and athleticism by getting to the rim and getting fouled. (Purdue posted a 50 percent free throw rate. Shooting this many free throws is helpful.) It was an impressive win, the Boilermakers' fifth in a row.

No. 9 Duke 86, No. 19 Georgia Tech 67: Take a good long look at Duke's four factors output from last night's blowout win over Georgia Tech. It's crazy. A 55.4 FG percentage. An 18.2 percent turnover rate. A 45.9 percent offensive rebounding rate. A 64.3 percent (!!) free throw rate. Do any one of these things, and your offense should be in good shape; do all three of them, and you can chalk up 1.3 points per trip, which is what the Dukies somewhat insanely did last night. No wonder Pomeroy's numbers still love this team so much: They are efficient. Whether they can put together these sorts of performances on the road is a different question. Andy Katz made a good point last night: Duke, despite being a less talented team than Kansas, never seems to get pushed the same way Kansas does at home. That's a huge home court advantage; no wonder Coach K didn't schedule any real non-conference road games other than the one required by Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Kansas can take its show on the road this year. Duke hasn't. The Dukies are 14-0 in Cameron Indoor Stadium and 1-4 outside it. Do the Crazies really matter that much? Are Duke's shooters just that used to Cameron's rims? Duke is an awfully good team, but it's weird they can't prove it off-campus.

Everywhere else: In other "road conference games are hard to win" news, Tennessee hit a drought at the wrong time Thursday night, scoring a mere seven points in the last eight minutes at LSU but avoiding the upset all the same, winning 59-54. ... Portland can call itself a victim of scheduling: The Pilots are a solid team capable of upsetting Gonzaga, but not right after a Gonzaga loss. ... Butler went to 12-0 in the Horizon with a hard-fought home win over Detroit. Gordon Hayward led with 18 points and 10 boards. ... Florida continues to get the benefit of buzzer-beating shots. Erving Walker's jumper with 11 seconds left lifted the Gators to a one-point win at Alabama. ... It might be time to pay attention to Maryland again. The Terps went on the road for their latest ACC win, topping Florida State in Tallahassee, and are 5-2 in the conference, and one game behind rival Duke, which should make Feb. 13's trip to Cameron Indoor mighty interesting. ... Notre Dame beat Cincinnati handily in South Bend. ... For more on last night's Pac-10 results, check out Diamond and Andy's posts early this morning.

Saddle Up: Time to test Tech

February, 4, 2010
2/04/10
3:59
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Saddle Up is our nightly preview of the hoops your TV wants you to watch. Oh, come on. You can always record the new "Parks and Recreation." Catch it after the games! Anyway, here's Thursday night's rundown.

No. 19 Georgia Tech at No. 9 Duke, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2: Purdue's rivalry showdown with Indiana will be on the main network tonight, but those of you unconcerned with Midwestern hoops provincialism will probably be more interested in this. It's a good one: Georgia Tech toppled Duke back before Duke's road woes were an apparent problem, back when Duke's record matched its gaudy efficiency numbers. Since then, Georgia Tech has become even more confusing: Is this the team that loses at Virginia? Or the team that wins at UNC? And what does a tight road loss at Florida State, followed by an all-cylinders-pumping home blowout of Wake Forest really mean? I have no idea. Georgia Tech is an enigma -- a dynamic squad with enough young talent (look no further than freshman Derrick Favors here) to compete for the ACC title, but who has put it all together once or twice thus far. Tonight's a legitimate chance for the Jackets to show us who they really are. Win at Duke, and the rest is gravy.

No. 7 Purdue at Indiana, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: You've already heard plenty about What It All Means, what the rivalry says about the state of Indiana, and why, despite the Hoosiers' post-Kelvin Sampson morass, this is still a hot ticket in the Midwest. You'll no doubt hear plenty more of it tonight. For now, let's focus on the hoops. Since dropping three in a row to start the Big Ten season, Purdue has rattled off four straight wins. Much has been made of Purdue's lack of a "true" point guard, but the Boilermakers' best quality is that they never turn the ball over; they're the No. 7 team in the country in that all-important tally.

Purdue is also more than capable at turning other teams over, and that just so happens to be Indiana's worst quality -- the Hoosiers give the ball away on 22.3 percent of their possessions. Indiana is not as incapable of upset wins as last year. If the Hoosiers keep turnovers low and make enough shots to keep Purdue within striking distance, they have a chance. And hey, the home crowd never hurts; Indiana is much better in Assembly Hall than it is away from it. Still no one would expect Indiana to win this game, and the numbers back that up. The Boilermakers are tough, physical, and experienced, all qualities IU is still figuring out. This is a great rivalry, to be sure. Whether this year's version will live up to that history is less certain.

Everywhere else: You would have been forgiven for thinking Tennessee's season was effectively over after the Tyler Smith fiasco; you, me, and everyone else would have been wrong. The Vols are still in the Top 25, still fighting for the SEC title and still a viable NCAA tourney team. They'll try to keep their surprising run going with a visit to LSU, which has a chance to prove its not actually the worst major conference team in the country. ... Portland is one of Gonzaga's few fellow contenders in the WCC; pity for the Pilots they're stuck playing Gonzaga just after the Zags dropped their first conference game of the year. ... Butler welcomes a surprisingly tough Detroit team to Indianapolis; the return of former Indiana characters Eli Holman (who famously threw a potted plant in Tom Crean's office) and coach Ray McCallum should be interesting. ... Maryland will try to get back to its early ACC form with a tough road visit to Florida State. ... How could it possibly get any worse for UNC? Losing to Virginia Tech and going to 2-5 in the ACC would be a start. ... Finally, in the Pac-10, Cal will travel to USC and attempt to get a game up on Arizona in the conference standings; meanwhile, Arizona will have a daunting task at Washington.

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