Posted on: March 3, 2012 11:11 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 12:06 am

A note on Butler and the unrepeated future

Brad Stevens the Bulldogs pulled off something that likely won't be duplicated for decades. (US Presswire)

By Matt Norlander

This sounds so trite, but you know it's so true. It wasn't until it the body was cold and the clock was officially out of countdown, until the schedule was out chances, that we could count Butler out. How many times had we done that in the past two years? Easily a half-dozen. And then the Bulldogs kept on winning, winning until the national title game and taking down a lot more than basketball nets and basketball programs with five times the spending budget. They never won a national title, but getting there is nearly the same level of accomplishment for a school like Butler.

Tonight, the chances of the Bulldogs entertaining us and making us doubt them once again officially extinguished, as Valparaiso acted like the top seed that it is, defeating Brad Stevens' Butler team 65-46 in the semifinals of the Horizon League tournament. They're the fun story, the new brand of underdog for fans to flock to -- and they won't be in this year's NCAA tournament field. It's not sad or anything, it's just a change of guard in the Horizon League for at least a year, and merely a hiccup of a season for Butler, which should be back in the thick of things next season when a very good recruiting class arrives and senior sharpshooting transfer Rotnei Clarke is eligible for his one year of sniper service.

Butler finishes its wobbly season with a 20-14 record. It's probably going to get an invite to some postseason tournament, but for all intents and purposes, the Bulldogs' campaign ended tonight. Valpo -- who a decade ago was the synonym for small guy success stories in the NCAAs -- gets to play for its first tournament appearance in eight years Sunday. The semifinal result was a nice way to dovetail the story lines of two programs who very well could build a new rivalry, what with the Crusaders have their own young coach (Bryce Drew) to build their program with, too.

The Valpo narrative can wait, though. After all, it still has to win one more. So here's my primary takeaway from the end of the Butler story, for now. Picture it. It's 2030, and we're all reading our news off of folding tablet screens that unlock by command of a face scanner. Something has replaced Twitter. Mike Krzyzewski looks the same as he did in 2005, which is the same as he did in 1988. Jeff Borzello wears a wig to hide his ever-thinning hair, because scientists still haven't found a way to reverse balding. Some things can't be overcome. The NCAA's adoration for the RPI falls under this category too, I'm afraid.

My point is, it's going to 2030 and we're going to remember and look back on Butler with more awe than what we had in 2010 and 2011. Because, while we're inevitably going to have another team from outside a major conference win a national title, we're not going to have a team come from a small league and make two straight national title games. Butler will have no peer in that regard for the next two decades. Brad Stevens will be there, Indianapolis, or at Indiana, or UCLA -- or maybe even Duke. He'll be climbing up the all-time wins list and cementing himself as one of the greats of all-time.

And he'll probably never come close to accomplishing something as unlikely as what he and his team did the past two years. Think about your impression of Butler the night it was two inches away from beating Duke in the most dramatic way in the history of the sport. And then how did you see this team in 2011? On the night Butler falls short of another chance at doing the improbable, our appreciation for that only grows. That appreciation will inflame, coincide and correlate with every team that falls well short of doing what this one did in the tournaments to come.


Posted on: February 23, 2012 4:11 pm

Butler's issue is perimeter shooting. Seriously.

By Jeff Goodman

It shocked me to hear the words. 

"Our biggest deal all year has been our inability to shoot it. We're one of the lowest teams in the country in 3's." 

That was courtesy of Brad Stevens. 

We've all come to expect that if there's one thing Stevens and the Butler Bulldogs can do, it's shoot the you-know-what out of the ball. 

But the Bulldogs are shooting a dismal 28 percent from beyond the arc this season. That checks in at 274th in the country. Wow. 

"We're shooting it better lately," Stevens said. "It's just taking a while for guys to get comfortable in their new roles." 

There's no star on this team. No Gordon Hayward. No Matt Howard. No Shelvin Mack. 

Junior gig man Andrew Smith leads the team at 10.6 points per game. No one else is in double figures. Khyle Marshall (9.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg) is having a solid season, but hasn't quite delivered what some had hoped as a sophomore. Fellow sophomore Chrishawn Hopkins has been up-and-down while freshman Roosevelt Jones has started 24 games and will be a fixture for this program. 

Butler goes into the regular-season finale at first-place Valparaiso with an 18-12 record and a half-game up on Cleveland State and Detroit for second place in the Horizon. 

Can these guys make a run in the Horizon league tourney and get back into the NCAA tournament -- where the Bulldogs have become the nation's ultimate Cinderella story each of the past two years?

"The tourney is up for grabs," he said. "But our road to the league championship is a long one -- and that's not always advantageous." 

The top two teams in the league earn a double-bye and right now Stevens didn't sound overly optimistic that the Bulldogs would be in that position. They lost both games to Detroit and split against Cleveland State -- the two teams that sit a half-game back at 10-6 in league play. 

Stevens will lose just one player in the rotation off this year's team: Senior point guard and leader Ronald Nored. Look at his numbers and it doesn't appear that Stevens & Co., will have a tough time replacing the Alabama native, but Nored brings defense and all the intangibles that have made this program so successful over the last few years. 

But Stevens will add someone that will immediately fix the team's perimeter shooting woes: Rotnei Clarke. 

The Arkansas transfer is arguably the best long-range shooter in the country. 

But that's next year -- and Stevens isn't quite ready to turn the page and give up on this group just yet. 

After the last two seasons, who can blame him?

Posted on: December 21, 2011 12:18 pm

Podcast: Year in Review, Part Two

By Matt Norlander

It's part two of our look-back on college hops in 2011. But before Gary Parrish, Jeff Goodman and myself get to talk about the memories, events and games that shaped the best of the sport this year, the big boys address, for the first time on the podcast, the Todd O'Brien situation at St. Joseph's. It's a story that continues to have legs and is in need of answers.

After that, it's the retrospective, followed by some holiday thoughts, memories, and cheer. Get some hot chocolate, throw a log on the fire and enjoy.

What to hear where:
  • From the beginning: Giving Goodman and Parrish the floor to discuss and share their opinions on the Todd O'Brien/St. Joe's situation.
  • 11:20: Parrish's five favorite memories of 2011. Yes, the aircraft carrier is mentioned. Yes, him getting lost on the way to the aircraft carrier is mentioned.
  • 16:40: Goodman's list, which includes the mandatory memory of joining us "idiots at CBS." Tears here.
  • 20:31: I listed off three of my five Monday, and so the final two are here. The Vanzant one has really stayed with me.
  • 24:04: Apologize for some navel-gazing here, but I needed to point out Goodman coming aboard, Parrish actively pursuing it, and how rare that can be in this industry under the circumstances it happened.
  • 27:37: The podcast gets a bow on it with Hannukah and Christmas chatter. What can I say, I can't get enough of it, and Goodman's stories of the Festival of Lights are worth sharing.

You can listen to the CBSSports.com College Basketball Podcast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The podcasts are posted here and simultaneously through iTunes (link below). Each Wednesday CBSSports.com national writers Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish hop on to banter and bicker. Mondays and Fridays are reserved for the most prominent voices in and around the game. Here's the iTunes subcription link. We also have an RSS feed for you to track. I don't believe they are making Zunes anymore, but nonetheless, I've been instructed to link you on how to listen via that device, too.

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Posted on: December 21, 2011 12:31 am
Edited on: December 21, 2011 12:32 am

Night Court: C.J. Leslie beats the buzzer

By Jeff Borzello

Here’s everything you need to know about Tuesday’s slate of college basketball games …

Game of the day: Kenpom.com anointed North Carolina State vs. St. Bonaventure as the game of the day prior to Tuesday – and he certainly wasn’t wrong. It was a back and forth game throughout, but it looked like it was heading to overtime once Eric Mosley tied it up at 65 with 3.1 seconds left. Then C.J. Williams launched a full-length pass to C.J. Leslie, who somehow got a shot off to win the game for the Wolfpack. Check the really high-quality video above.

Win to brag about: Northern Iowa was 6-0 on its homecourt heading into Tuesday, but Ohio went into Cedar Falls and came out with a 17-point win. The Bobcats shot 52 percent from the field, 52 percent from 3-point range and stifled Northern Iowa on the defensive end. Ivo Baltic went for 22 points in the win for Ohio, which is now 10-1.

Loss to hide from: There weren’t any truly bad losses on Tuesday, but Stephen F. Austin dropping one to Prairie View A&M tops the list. Prairie View didn’t have a Division-I win all season and had won just two games away from home in the last season and a half. Stephen F. Austin expected to contend in the Southland this season, but going 0-for-8 from 3-point range en route to a 53-50 loss isn’t going to do it.

Player who deserves improper benefits: Richmond’s Darien Brothers scored 38 points to lead the Spiders to a 90-82 overtime win against Old Dominion. Brothers jumpstarted the extra period with a four-point play to give Richmond a lead it would never relinquish. Overall, he had 19 points in the last 11 minutes of regulation and overtime. 

Player(s) who does not deserve improper benefits: Coming off Butler’s win against Purdue over the weekend, we expected the Bulldogs to show better against Gonzaga. Instead, they got behind early and fell, 71-55. Three of Butler’s top four scorers – Andrew Smith, Chase Stigall and Chrishawn Hopkins – combined to shoot 3-for-21 for a grand total of seven points.

Numbers don’t lie:

  • 358: Towson lost to Manhattan on Tuesday night. The Tigers have now gone 358 days without a win.
  • November 16: Prior to its win over UNC-Asheville, Tennessee hadn’t defeated a Division-I team in over a month.
  • 11-1: After its win over St. Francis (Pa.), Pittsburgh has now started 11-1 in 11 of the last 12 seasons. The PA announcer in that game had to call out an update after every basket due to a scoreboard malfunction.

Three other notable results:

  1. Charleston looked poised to pull the upset over Louisville, but a quick 8-0 run in 70 seconds gave the Cardinals a seven-point lead with two minutes left. Louisville held on, 69-62.
  2. Doron Lamb shot 8-for-12 from the field to lead Kentucky to an 82-50 win over Samford.
  3. Syracuse stayed undefeated with an 80-61 victory over Patriot favorite Bucknell.


  • Jared Sullinger returned from a foot injury to play 30 minutes against Lamar. He scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in a 70-50 win.
  • New Mexico’s game against Montana State was delayed 30 minutes by a fire alarm before tipoff. Per the AP, it was the third time in the last two seasons New Mexico has had a game delayed.
  • BYU bounced back from an early deficit to beat Buffalo, 93-78.
  • North Texas freshman Tony Mitchell is averaging 12.0 points and 9.0 rebounds in his first two games since becoming eligible.
  • Solomon Hill had 23 points and 11 rebounds to help Arizona get an 85-73 win over Oakland.

On tap: There are several good games to check out on Wednesday. The best game of the night should be Texas taking on North Carolina, with Myck Kabongo going head-to-head with Kendall Marshall. Seton Hall also faces Dayton, and Alabama looks to bounce back against Oklahoma State. A couple of teams with gaudy records battle in DePaul and Cal Poly, and Parrish will be at Mississippi vs. Middle Tennessee State.

Photo: US Presswire
Video: YouTube

Posted on: December 19, 2011 2:44 pm

Podcast: Year in Review, Part One

By Matt Norlander

Gonna have today's and Wednesday's podcasts dedicated in part to looking back on the year in college hoops and sharing our favorite memories. So Borzello joins me today to do just that.

We also touch on Washington/Pac-12, underachieving teams with chances to win their leagues, and a whole bunch of Christmas talk that's sure to get you into the spirit, primarily because we discuss Home Alone and Voltron.

The rundown:
  • From the beginning: Pardon Borzello and mine's voices, as we've been clogged up with colds since the weekend.
  • 2:51: Borzello's five favorite memories from college basketball in 2011.
  • 7:49: Three of my five favorites (I'm saving two more for Wednesday's podcast).
  • 13:53: Lots of teams out there with five losses. Good teams, too. We each picked two teams that fit such a description as those we believe will make the NCAA tournament/likely win their conference.
  • 17:57: Whoa, I think that's a shot at Jon Rothstein!
  • 22:15: Christmas talk, OH YEAH! We have passions about our favorite and least favorite Christmas songs. You will surely agree with one of us.
  • 29:13: Wherein we come to the agreement: Home Alone 2 was the last classic Christmas movie.
  • 33:30: Wrapping up the podcast with holiday chatter and cheer.

You can listen to the CBSSports.com College Basketball Podcast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The podcasts are posted here and simultaneously through iTunes (link below). Each Wednesday CBSSports.com national writers Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish hop on to banter and bicker. Mondays and Fridays are reserved for the most prominent voices in and around the game. Here's the iTunes subcription link. We also have an RSS feed for you to track. I don't believe they are making Zunes anymore, but nonetheless, I've been instructed to link you on how to listen via that device, too.

Get CBSSports.com College Basketball updates on Facebook   

Posted on: November 27, 2011 9:42 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 9:47 pm

Tom Crean gets biggest win in tenure over Butler

By Jeff Goodman

Tom Crean will sleep well tonight. Maybe he won't even have Brad Stevens nightmares any longer. 

The Indiana coach, in his fourth season since taking over one of the most storied programs in the country, watched his Hoosiers team pull away from Stevens'  Butler Bulldogs on Sunday night fr a 75-59 win. 

This was a huge victory for Crean. In fact, I'll go as far as to say it was the most important in his IU tenure, largely because he ended up on the winning end against Stevens - a guy who many still believe could wind up replacing him in Bloomington if the Hoosiers don't continue to make steady progress. 

Indiana had won five consecutive games to start the season, but it wasn't exactly Murderer's Row. 

The Hoosiers knocked off Stony Brook, Chattanooga, Evansville, Savannah State and Gardner-Webb - by an average of more than 25 points per game. 

Crean's group ran its record to 6-0 against a mediocre Butler team, but that was somewhat irrelevant. 

Because Crean had to win this one. 

He's jealous and/or envious of Stevens - just like nearly every other coach in America that has watched the Boy Wonder make two consecutive national title game appearances. But it's different for Crean because he's supposed to own the state - and yet it's been Butler who have been the darlings in Indiana. 

The win total has climbed from six to 10 to 12 over the first three years in the Crean Era - and the Hoosiers have gotten out of the gates without a blemish thus far. 

This team is more talented than the first three. Freshman Cody Zeller is a future pro, Will Sheehey, who went for a career-high 21 against Butler, has made significant strides since his freshman campaign and the backcourt of Verdell Jones and Jordan Hulls has been solid. Christian Watford no longer has to be "The Guy" and that's exactly what Crean needs in order to finish in the top half of the Big Ten. 

The schedule certainly gets more difficult over the next few weeks with N.C. State, Kentucky and Notre Dame on the slate prior to the start of Big Ten play. 

However, Crean needed this one. Badly.

Photo: AP
Posted on: November 12, 2011 7:22 pm

Butler involved in another controversial finish

By Jeff Borzello

The ending of last year’s game between Butler and Pittsburgh in the NCAA tournament might have been the most memorable finish of the season. This season, the Bulldogs might be part of the most exciting ending once again – but on the losing end this time.

Butler blew a 12-point lead in the second half against Evansville, en route to an 80-77 defeat. The end of regulation and overtime will undoubtedly leave a sour taste in the mouth of the Bulldogs.

In regulation, Evansville tied the game on a Colt Ryan free throw with 0.9 seconds left after a controversial foul sent him to the line. On the ensuing possession, Butler threw the ball the length of the court to Andrew Smith, who made a four-footer at the buzzer to win it – or so everything thought. The refs called a foul with 0.2 seconds left, although the lights on the backboard at Evansville’s new arena didn’t light up when the clock struck triple zero, meaning it was difficult to tell whether if Smith got the shot off in time.

Evansville head coach Marty Simmons did not think Smith got the shot off in time.

With 0.2 seconds left, Smith clanked both free throws, sending the game into overtime. In the final minute of the extra session, with Evansville up by one, Ryan drove to the rim and missed. Smith got rebound, but Ryan – while standing out of bounds – knocked the ball out of his hands and laid it in. Evansville held on from there.

“More than anything, we feel fortunate,” Simmons said by phone after the game. “That game could’ve went either way. We just have so much respect for them. When you’re able to beat them, it feels good.”

Ryan finished with 23 points, six rebounds and five steals for Evansville, while Smith went for 21 points and nine rebounds for Butler. Chrishawn Hopkins had 22 points and five assists for Brad Stevens’ troops.

When Butler lost to Division-II Northern State last week, it was clear that this season would be a rebuilding one for the Bulldogs.

Saturday’s overtime loss to Evansville only cements that assertion – even though the Bulldogs also lost to the Aces in November last season, before turning things around and making a run to the title game.

This is simply not the same team as last year. There’s no Shelvin Mack to bail Butler out when the shot clock is winding down, and there are not enough outside shooters to take the pressure off Smith down low. Khyle Marshall was expected to have a breakout season, but he only finished with six points and four fouls. Highly-touted freshmen Roosevelt Jones and Kameron Woods both did not play for the Bulldogs on Saturday.

Can Butler bounce back and win the Horizon? Of course – it’s only November 12, the Bulldogs do have talent on the roster and this was certainly a fluky loss. Moreover, if Smith hit one of his two free throws, we probably wouldn’t even be writing this post.

“I think they’re really good,” Simmons said. “They lost some really great players, but they have a great system of play and they have really good players. Their staff puts them in position to win. They’re really difficult team to play against. They have a lot of really, really good pieces.”

With that said, Stevens does have his work cut out for him this season.

As for Evansville, Simmons is hoping the win gives the Aces some momentum going forward.

“We’ll see,” he said. “I’m really proud of our guys, the way they were able to hang in there. It was a gut check.” 

For both teams.

Posted on: November 3, 2011 12:52 am
Edited on: November 3, 2011 1:08 am

Butler loses exhibition to Division II school

By Gary Parrish

Last we saw the Butler Bulldogs they were making a run to a second straight national title game.

A third straight appearance this season seems unlikely for a variety of reasons.

A 53-50 loss to Northern State on Wednesday is among them.

"I guess we've got nowhere to go but up," Butler coach Brad Stevens told the Indianapolis Star's David Woods after the loss, and the superstar coach is pretty much right on with that assessment.

Now let's be honest: Though Butler is an impressive and accomplished program impossible not to pull for, it's hardly the type of place that can lose players like Gordon Hayward, Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack in a 13-month span and show no signs of it. For all its accomplishments, Butler is still a Horizon League school that's lost players early to the NBA Draft each of the past two years, and it's just hard to recover from that. So while I'm sure Stevens will get this group to play together and better by the time February rolls around -- and while I'm confident they'll win another Horizon championship, too -- the truth is that this is probably a transitional year for the program.

The Bulldogs have lost a lot of personnel since they played Duke for the 2010 title.

A slight slip was unavoidable.

Category: NCAAB
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