Morning Five: 12.27.10 Edition--Rush The Court
While most of the college basketball world relaxed and spent time with their friends and family there was also quality basketball being played in Hawaii, the big winner was Butler, who ran off three straight wins knocking off Utah, FSU, and Washington State in succession to win the Diamond Head Classic. After a rough start to the early season, the Bulldogs appear to be rounding into shape and should be a team to be reckoned with despite what Joe Lunardi might have thought (Insider access: Basically an absurd column questioning if Butler and Gonzaga would make the NCAA Tournament).
Utah Jazz Extra: 5 notable trends from the pre-Christmas road trip
3. The Christmas wish list
It wasn't a basketball-related question, but I had fun asking every Jazz player what he'd really like to get for Christmas. The responses were as wide-ranging and interesting, everything from peace, to a guaranteed contract, to a James Bond sportscar, to family time, to socks and briefs or boxers (I didn't ask that overly personal follow up). Hopefully readers enjoyed the Christmas morning feature as players, even if short responses, gave a glimpse into their interesting personalities. (P.S. Fesenko appreciated all Happy Birthday wishes that were relayed by fans. Though he didn't get asked-for birthday texts from teammates, rookies Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Evans serenated him with the B-day song at practice Friday. Fes was grateful for that, even if it was the worst singing he said he's ever heard. C.J. Miles contends that Gordan Giricek was a worse singer.)
4. Hayward doesn't go wayward
Speaking of the rookies, it's not unusual to see them play in the fourth quarter. It is, however, very rare to see them playing crunch-time minutes. But that indeed was Gordon Hayward out there playing like a seasoned veteran as the Jazz won with a fourth-quarter rally last Wednesday in Minnesota to wrap up their 3-1 trip. The rookie stayed in for all 12 minutes in the fourth, which Al Jefferson claimed was a trust-earning moment for Hayward as far as their coach is concerned. The 20-year-old certainly passed that test after coming up short on some other exams in recent weeks — especially his three invisible starts — so it was a positive step forward for Hayward. Who knows when the No. 9 pick will be given the opportunity again. But the Butler standout said he'll be ready when it happens. Now if we could only hear how he sings duets with Evans.
RPI WATCH: 12/26/2010--Bring On The Cats
For one half, Butler and Washington State appeared to be evenly matched foes. The score was tied at 38 just before halftime, but the Bulldogs were able to sink the final shot for a narrow 40-38 halftime lead.
Well, that score proved to be an illusion — Butler opened the second half by outscoring the Cougars 21-4 and eventually pulled away to a 84-68 victory that wasn't close at all.
Full credit to Butler coach Brad Stevens, who continues to be one of the greatest strategists in the game with the way he puts his players in the best position to win, while also minimizing an opponent's advantages and maximizing their weaknesses. Butler overwhelms you with unselfish team play and execution, not athleticism.
Butler hits 11 3s in winning Diamond Head Classic final--The Indy Star
Title a boost to Bulldogs--The Indy Star
Titans Return Home To Face Marygrove--detroittitans.com
City teams seek consistency as conference play heats up--The Chicago Tribune
Milwaukee Panthers Mid-Term Grade Report--Milwaukee Panther Tracks
Crusaders Return to Action Tuesday at ARC against Ball State--valpoathletics.com
Donlon’s reasons for discussing mother telling for WSU coach--Wright State University Sports