Tuesday, March 22, 2011

News On The Horizon 3/22/2011

Majority Chat Block, Episode 718--The Mid-Majority
Tennessee Basketball Coaching Candidates--Rocky Top Talk

Rob Jeter, Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Just in case Mike Hamilton wants to go back to familiar territory. Jeter was an assistant at Wisconsin until Bruce Pearl took the Tennessee job; Jeter got back to the NCAA Tournament in his first year with the Panthers but hasn't been back since. However, he has gotten them back on the right track after losing seasons in his second and third year (which shows you the value Pearl had up there) - UWM made it to the NIT this year, their first postseason appearance of any kind since 2006.
Brad Stevens, Butler

Look, everybody wants him, but this guy can pick his job and I'm just not sure you pick this one right now. Stevens, of course, made the Final Four last year and was a rim-out on a halfcourt heave away from being a National Champion. Most recently, Butler beat 1 seed Pitt and is still playing in the Sweet 16. He's 34 and has been at Butler as an assistant or the head man his entire career. Even if you think Tennessee is the best available job right now, there are certainly more attractive positions in college basketball that could open up next year, and he can afford to wait. Some believe he's simply waiting out Tom Crean at Indiana. I'd love to have Stevens, I just think he's a long shot.

Morning Five: 03.22.11 Edition--Rush The Court

In lighter NCAA news, Butler announced that it would not be bringing its mascot to the South Regional as the NCAA also banned live mascots from this weekend’s events due to issues with space and the need for a quick turnaround for other events in the arenas, but Blue II might be allowed to participate in the Final Four. If this were Colorado thinking about bringing a buffalo, we might find the reasons valid, but realistically how much space could an animal that size take up and as long as it was house trained it shouldn’t be an issue being near the court.

NCAA Regional Reset: Southeast Region--Rush The Court
NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.22.2011--Rush The Court


* Butler head coach Brad Stevens is only 34 years old, yet he has already coached in a national championship, won his league title four straight years, beaten Bob Knight, and reached two straight regional rounds. For most coaches, that would be a fairly impressive career, but Stevens is just getting started.
* The key player for Wisconsin against Butler may be big man Keaton Nankivil. Butler’s big men have the ability to float around the perimeter and Badgers such as Nankivil and Jon Leuer will be tasked with the job of preventing them from getting hot.

NCAA tourney’s close finishes included too many odd calls--Beyond the Arc

Butler 71, Pittsburgh 70

The details
A drive by Shawn Vanzant resulted in a short basket by Andrew Smith that gave Butler a 70-69 lead with 2.2 seconds left. Then it got strange.

Butler’s Shelvin Mack inexplicably fouled Gilbert Brown near midcourt with 1.4 seconds left, Brown made the first try to tie it. Brown missed the second and Butler’s Matt Howard was fouled by Nasir Robinson while grabbing the rebound. So, with .8 seconds remaining, Howard made one free throw, missed the second on purpose and Butler won. (Watch the video sequence here.)

Robinson admitted he made a mistake.

“I’ve been playing basketball my whole life and I know I shouldn’t have done that. It was a stupid play,” Robinson said. “It wasn’t the ref’s fault. It was my fault.”

Right call?
I watched it again and again Saturday and Sunday and though I hate that a foul 90 feet from the opposing basket gave Butler a chance to win, it was a foul. Robinson admitted it, it happened right in front of the ref and it was impossible to argue. It doesn’t feel right – overtime would’ve been more palatable – but it’s the way it is.

The Best And Worst Of The NCAA Tournament’s Opening Weekend--Ballin' is a Habit

Biggest Surprises:
Virginia Commonwealth
“It is an outrage that VCU is in the tournament over (insert major conference team here)” – Every College Basketball Analyst Everywhere.

Um, you guys are all fired. The Rams have been outstanding so far, more than justifying their selection. VCU is the only team to play three games thus far in the tournament, and has beaten USC, Georgetown and Purdue. On Sunday night the Rams utterly embarrassed the Boilers to reach the Sweet 16, becoming the first team ever from “the First Four” to reach the tournament’s second weekend.

After VCU lost the CAA title game to Old Dominion, a friend told me that it was a shame because the Rams were a really good team and wouldn’t make it in to the tournament. I should have believed him. Led by Jamie Skeen, Bradford Burgess and Brandon Rozzell, VCU has proved virtually everyone wrong. Nice going boys.

Butler Bulldogs
Despite not having Willie Veasley and Gordon Hayward, the Butler Bulldogs continue to amazing. After a miracle run to the championship game last year, most figured Butler would be undone by unfavorable seeding. They faced a very good Old Dominion team in the first round (and escaped on a last-second shot) then went toe-to-toe with the Southeast’s No. 1 seed, Pitt. Though it took a wild finish to get Butler through to the Sweet 16, would you bet against them now?

Junior guard Shelvin Mack and senior forward Matt Howard continue to amaze, and the team-first attitude of the Bulldogs and coach Brad Stevens is paying off big time.

2011 NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16 Southeast Region Preview--Ballin' is a Habit
Sweet surprises: NCAA Tournament delivers again--Sports Illustrated

Butler’s back

Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise. Butler’s back in the Sweet 16 after another stunning upset in the NCAA Tournament.

But really, how can it not be? The rationalization for last year’s shocking run through the Tournament was that Butler had a lot of solid pieces around an NBA-bound player in Gordon Hayward. But now Hayward’s gone. Shooting guard Shelvin Mack has played like he’ll take up an NBA roster spot, but he’s far from a sure-fire draft pick.

And yet, here they are knocking off top-seeded Pitt in the second round, in yet another down-to-the-wire thriller.

“I think it's fortunate to have the ball last,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said. “Like I said, we're not better than Old Dominion. We're not better than Pittsburgh. We just had the ball last. We talked about the Xavier game last year when we picked up a loose ball while bodies were on the floor and laid it in. Does that make you a better team? No. We're just fortunate to advance because one thing these guys do is they play through the horn, and they'll always play through the horn.”

At some point though—and this point arrived last year, not in this tournament—it’s more than being fortunate and more than just having the ball last. It’s knowing what to do when those situations arise.

16 Things We Learned--NBADraft.net

4. Butler never left.

Old Dominion was supposed to be the team to survive a tough 8-9 game and push Pittsburgh to the limit, but Butler has the experience and know-how to win NCAA Tournament games. After all, the Bulldogs won five last year. The beauty is, this March has been redemption time for Matt Howard, who really struggled last season as his teammates picked up the slack. He won Horizon League player of the year as a sophomore, but took the back seat to Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack as a junior. Now, he's the critical factor if Butler should continue another magical run.
16. This tournament is shaping up to be really memorable.

All season long, we heard complaints that the talent level in college basketball had reached a new low. Well, who cares? In 20 years, you'll be recalling some of the many game-winners, not the lack of talent possessed by the players who made them. Sure, that Pitt-Butler game had a grossly executed finale, but I'm going to remember it for two of the strangest fouls I've ever seen. There's been better basketball played in other years, but this year has provided plenty of shining moments.

Parting shots from opening weekend--ESPN

Dana O'Neil from Washington D.C.

1. Connecticut isn't tired. Anyone who still holds to the old-fashioned notion that the Huskies wouldn't have enough gas left in their tank to do well in the NCAA tournament needs to change their opinions. UConn has won seven games in 11 nights and looked fresh as a daisy in beating Bucknell and Cincinnati to move to the Sweet 16. Rather than tiring them out, the Huskies' five-games-in-five-night marathon at the Big East tournament clearly has given UConn new confidence.

2. Butler's magic is back, but this team isn't just built on pixie dust. The Bulldogs had a little luck and a little drama to beat Old Dominion and Pittsburgh but they also had some of the skill that got them to the national championship game a year ago. Butler is back to playing scrappy and sometimes downright nasty defense. The Bulldogs beat ODU at their own game, outrebounding one of the country's best teams on the boards and went toe-to-toe for toughness with Pitt, arguably one of the toughest teams in the nation. There is no tangible value for the experience that Matt Howard, Ronald Nored, Shawn Vanzant and Shelvin Mack have, but there is no doubting its invaluable addition for Butler.

3. It's hard to know which is more crushing for Pittsburgh: Scottie Reynolds' coast-to-coast buzzer-beater in the Elite Eight two years ago or the end-game implosion that cost them against Butler. When they lost to Villanova, the Panthers were on the precipice of the Final Four. This time, they were bounced early in the strangest and most bizarre of fashions. Regardless, the knock on Pitt, fair or not, will continue as the Panthers' struggles in March continue.

State of the Dance: An Extravaganza, With An Epidemic--Sports Illustrated
Sweet 16 primer: Teams, times, outlooks, more--Beyond the Arc


No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 25-8
How it got here: Beat No. 13 Belmont 72-58; beat No. 5 Kansas State 70-65.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2008
Next up: No. 8 Butler

Essential info: Jon Leuer (41 points in two games) and Jordan Taylor (33 points) get the headlines, and rightly so. Most of Wisconsin’s offensive sets rely on those two making shots, but it’s possible to win if they struggle. Ask K-State. Taylor missed 14 of 16 shots and Leuer missed six of his 12 attempts. The rest of the team went 13 of 22. That’s how it goes with Bo Ryan’s team, which prizes high-percentage shots or 3-pointers in order to maximize points on every possession. It’s close to the same offense Butler runs, with some variations and slightly more athletic players. Can the Badgers run it better?

Tip-off: 9:57 p.m. ET on Thursday (TBS)


No. 8 Butler Bulldogs

Record: 25-9
How it got here: Beat No. 9 Old Dominion 60-58; beat No. 1 Pitt 71-70.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2010
Next up: No. 4 Wisconsin

Essential info: Last year’s Cinderella team is back for another Final Four run. The Bulldogs won two games in the final second, one on a layup, the other on a free throw. Chalk it up to business as usual for Brad Stevens’ team, which won four of its five NCAA tournament games last season by an average of three points. This version doesn’t have a Gordon Hayward, who was a matchup nightmare for opponents, does everything else. It doesn’t turn the ball over, grabs every defensive rebound and is a solid 3-pooint shooting team. It’ll face a Wisconsin team that emphasizes many of those same qualities and plays at the same deliberate pace. Butler will be in the game. Only question is if it’ll come down to the last second again.

Tip-off: 9:57 p.m. ET on Thursday (TBS)

My whirlwind tour at NCAA tournament--Fox Sports
On our tainted, flawed opening weekend--Eye On College Basketball
"There's No Way This Is Happening"--Slate
Ranking the Sweet 16 matchups--Eye On College Basketball

4. No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Butler: Butler is two wins from making a second straight improbable run to the Final Four, but the door is open for Wisconsin as well. The guard match-up of Shelvin Mack and Jordan Taylor will be tremendous, although Butler needs someone to step out and defend Jon Leuer.

16 stories to watch in the Sweet 16--Eye On College Basketball

13. Brad Stevens tries to do it again: Butler's move to the championship game last year was remarkable and a testament to the ability of Brad Stevens and a great group of Butler players, led by Gordon Hayward. But this Butler team's set of last-second wins last weekend may have even been more impressive. While Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack are both playing well, there was a time this year that Butler was completely in turmoil, losing to lower level Horizon League teams and looking like a fragment of the team that was a half court shot from cutting down the nets. But Stevens never gave up, the team got better and now two one point wins have put the Bulldogs two victories from the Final Four. The Southeast bracket is wide open and there is no reason that Stevens cannot make magic again.

Jazz hit the ropes in 103-85 loss to Grizzlies--Salt Lake Tribune

While everyone from Utah coach Tyrone Corbin to rookie Gordon Hayward and veteran Raja Bell used their own unique words to explain where Utah stands with just 11 regular-season games to go and what exactly has gone wrong this year, a feisty no-comment from center Al Jefferson said it all.
“It’s frustrating. Two big [losses] in a row,” Hayward said. “Every game from here out is huge. Not only is this a big one because [Memphis] is right there with us, but we’ve got to win every game we can from here on out.”

Analysis: Jazz blame downturn on ‘drastic number of changes’--Salt Lake Tribune

The Jazz’s drop in the standings has been mirrored by an interior fallout. The full-on development of rookies Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Evans is on pause while Utah still has a statistical chance of making the playoffs. But while the Jazz awkwardly balance the present with the future, some players on Utah’s current roster have been left to openly wonder just what the team is playing for with 11 regular-season games to go.

IU, Butler to play in November tourney--The Indy Star
Despite perception, Wisconsin, Butler make most of every possession--The Indy Star
Five years and counting--Indy Star Butler Insider
Movement to retire No. 54--Indy Star Butler Insider
Cutting down the ‘Net: Pitt reactions still pouring in--Victory Firelight
The Twitterverse ponders…Bulldogs or Badgers?--Butler Collegian

Titans Lauded for Academic Success--detroittitans.com

UIC Student-Athletes Recognized on Fall Academic Honor Roll--uicflames.com

Thumbs Up Thumbs Down--Loyola Phoenix

This week's shoutout goes to the future men's basketball coach

I don't know who you are just yet, but I like you. And your style. Okay, maybe not your style. But as men's baskeball head coach, I am confident you will take the Ramblers to the top of the Horizon League. It's evident Grace Calhoun knows what she is doing, so I predict you will be quite the coach/recruiter/friend of mine. Hit me on Facebook. And Twitter. You Tumbl?

Eighty Loyola Student-Athletes Recognized On 2010 Horizon League Fall Academic Honor Roll--LoyolaRamblers.com

Kayla Tetschlag Hosts Tournament Talk, Interviews Hoewisch--uwgbathletics.com

Jeter sticking around at UWM--Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
In Jeter We Trust--PantherU
Jeter shows his true colors--PantherU

On Horizon League scheduling, the BracketBuster and Valparaiso recruiting--The Post-Tribune--Off The Mark

No. 13/11 Green Bay in search of Sweet 16--Horizon League Network

Horizon League Announces 2010 Fall Academic Honor Roll--Horizon League Network

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