Tag Archives: Brad Stevens

Column: Brad Stevens to Indiana is nothing short of a fairytale (at least for two seasons)

The Brad Stevens to Indiana rumor mill has been rampant this calendar year, but it’s nothing new.

The oldest search engine result on Google that raised the question of ‘Should Brad Stevens be Indiana’s next head coach?’ has a date stamp of March 2010.

Ever since his back-to-back national championship game appearances at Butler, Stevens manning the sidelines in Assembly Hall in the near future has been a dream scenario for many Indiana fans.

If you’re one of those people, splash some cold water on your face, wake up from your dream and come to your senses.

It’s a fairytale. It’s a fantasy. And it’s way too farfetched to happen in the next two seasons, maybe longer.

One could argue that the stars are aligning for Stevens to make the jump to Indiana.

Yes, Stevens’ Boston Celtics recently traded Rajon Rondo, the team’s best player.

Yes, the Celtics are five games below .500 after finishing with the fourth-worst record in the NBA last season.

And yes, Indiana was picked to finish in the bottom half of virtually every Big Ten preseason poll and in almost every NCAA Tournament projection, the Hoosiers are on the outside looking in.

But the signs that some fans believe lead him from Boston to Bloomington are a mirage.

While Stevens is no longer in Indiana — the state where he was born, raised, attended college and spent 12 years as a coach at Butler — he’s at home in Boston.

SB Nation’s Paul Flannery spoke to Stevens on Dec. 18 before a Celtics practice, where Boston’s coach started shaking his head even before Flannery finished asking him if he wanted to return to the college level.

On Sunday, Flannery wrote about Stevens’ commitment to Boston:

“I’ve committed to being here,” Stevens told me before Thursday’s practice at the team’s facility. “I’ve already left a situation once and that was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to choose to do. This is something that as long as they want me to be here, this is what I want to be doing and I’m going to give it everything I’ve got. I know it’s all specific to the rumor mills and the discussion of one spot. I think they’ve got a good coach who’s done a helluva job. He doesn’t deserve that speculation.

“I’m the head coach of the Boston Celtics,” Stevens continued. “This is the job. This is where I am. This is what I want to do really well and I’m committed to being as good as I can every single day for the Celtics.”

Leaving Butler clearly took an emotional toll on Stevens, but it was a necessary move for him to coach the highest level of basketball in the world. Even though Stevens is only 38, if he walked away from the NBA now, or any time soon, his NBA coaching career could very well be over. Bailing on an organization that has supported him contractually and monetarily would rub NBA front offices the wrong way and could confine him to the college ranks for the rest of his life.

Plus, it doesn’t make financial sense. Stevens made roughly $1.2 million at Butler in 2011 before inking a six-year, $22 million contract with Boston. For a man as bright as Stevens, leaving that kind of money on the table would not only be improbable, but foolish.

Unless Stevens gets fired in the near future, which seems highly unlikely given the four-plus years and millions of dollars remaining on his contract as well as Boston’s multitude of upcoming draft picks, there’s no reason for him to leave the Celtics prematurely.

On the Dec. 18 edition of CBSSports.com’s Eye On College Basketball Podcast, the Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy told CBS’ Gary Parrish that while Stevens would walk away with “20 (million) and any college in America that’s close to having an opening will climb over hot coals” to get him, he’s not in position to get fired any time soon.

“If you are an Indiana fan and you want Brad Stevens, you’re better off hanging hanging on to Tom Crean for a while because Brad Stevens is not walking from the money,” DeCourcy said. “He is a bright person. He is not walking away from the challenge or the money.”

Parrish added that Stevens enjoys the NBA lifestyle, which revolves solely around basketball and doesn’t include golf outings, talking to boosters or a weekly radio show that fall under the list of responsibilities of a college head coach.

“It’s not even like he has some desire to come back to college,” Parrish said. He added that Stevens’ wife is reportedly happy in Boston and that Stevens has a good reputation among NBA circles.

Plus, the entire premise of the Stevens to Indiana storyline requires for there to be an opening at head coach in Bloomington. Too many fans are trying to cross a two-way street by only looking in one direction for oncoming cars and they’re missing a tractor-trailer, Crean, that’s picking up speed.

While many Indiana fans have bitter tastes in their mouths for the way the 2012-13 season ended and how the Hoosiers missed postseason play completely last season, Crean has guided his team to as many wins against ranked opponents as the rest of the Big Ten combined this season.

And speaking of the Big Ten, which has been generally regarded as the toughest and deepest conference in college basketball in recent seasons, the conference is wide open after Wisconsin.

With wins over No. 22 SMU, Pittsburgh and No. 23 Butler, Indiana has proven is can beat its peers with an offense that is as high-scoring and as efficient as any in the country. If the Hoosiers can replicate the defense and rebounding they displayed in Indianapolis against Butler, there’s no reason why Indiana can’t finish among the top five teams in the Big Ten, make the NCAA Tournament and silence Crean’s doubters.

Given Stevens’ ties to the state and coaching success up the road from Bloomington, it’s understandable why the hypothetical pairing has received so much attention.

However, such a scenario seems unlikely, if not impossible, for at least the next two seasons given the timing of Stevens’ career arc in Boston and the Hoosiers’ potential in the Big Ten with an offense that is beyond potent in a conference that seems to have taken a collective step backwards.

Dreams may be fun, Indiana fans, but they don’t always come true.

The future of the new Big East

The Big East announced this week that the conference’s basketball-only schools, which have been referred to as the Catholic 7—DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Villanova—will leave on June 30, 2013.

While early reports indicated that these universities would create their own conference under a new name, the Catholic 7 will retain the “Big East” label in addition to playing its conference tournament at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, New York.

As the new Big East looks to expand to a 10 or 12-team conference, the universities have three options in which they can add new members—only Catholic schools, only private schools or open the conference to public universities.

The initial rumors are that the new Big East will acquire Butler and Xavier from the Atlantic 10 Conference as well as Creighton from the Missouri Valley Conference to expand to a 10-team conference for the 2013-14 season.

The new Big East would like to reach at least 12 teams by 2014. Dayton and Saint Louis are the front-runners for the final spots for the new conference. Richmond and VCU have also been given consideration for admission to the new Big East.

Here is a look at the potential additions to the new Big East:

Butler Bulldogs

Conference: Atlantic 10

Record: 24-7 (11-5)—T-3rd in the A-10

Record over the past decade: 241-96 (.715 winning percentage)

Regular season conference championships: 18

Conference tournament championships: 7

NCAA Tournament History:

Appearances: 11—1962, ’97-98, 2000-01, ’07-11

Record: 18-11

Sweet Sixteen: 5—1962, 2003, ’07, ’10-11

Elite Eight: 2—’10-11

Final Four: 2—’10-11

National Championship Runner-Up: ’10-11

Butler has been one of the best teams in the NCAA Tournament in the past five seasons, with two national championship game appearances and another Sweet Sixteen run. Led by Brad Stevens, who at only 36 years old is one of the best young coaches in college basketball, Butler has skyrocketed from a middle-of-the-road team in the Horizon League to the front of the national spotlight. Butler University has the size of a mid-major but its recent accomplishments have earned the men’s basketball program the prestige of an established power 6 conference team.

Xavier Musketeers

Conference: Atlantic 10

Record: 17-13 (9-7)—T-6th in the A-10

Record over the past decade: 236-105 (.692 winning percentage)

Regular season conference championships: 17

Conference tournament championships: 10

NCAA Tournament History:

Appearances: 23

Record: 21-23

Sweet Sixteen: 6—1990, 2004, ’08-12

Elite Eight: 2—2004, ‘08

Xavier is one of the best examples of a mid-major that has achieved sustained postseason success. The Musketeers have been a staple for the NCAA Tournament in the new millennium. Since the 2000-01 season, XU has only missed the tourney once, in 2005. The Muskies have made a name for themselves with five Sweet Sixteen appearances since 2004, including each of the past four seasons, and Elite Eight berths in ’04 and ’08. While a 17-12 record is a down year for Xavier’s standards, the Musketeers have defeated two ranked opponents in their past three games as they make a final push for the NCAA Tournament. Led by the probable Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year, point guard Semaj Christon, and an accomplished young coach in Chris Mack, the Xavier Musketeers have a bright future once their rebuilding process is complete.

Creighton Bluejays

Conference: Missouri Valley

Record: 27-7 (13-5)—1st in the MVC

Record over the past decade: 231-105 (.688 winning percentage)

Regular season conference championships: 15

Conference tournament championships: 12

NCAA Tournament History:

Appearances: 17

Record: 10-18

Sweet Sixteen: 3—1962, ’64, ‘74

While junior Doug McDermott has been the recipient of most of the media’s attention at Creighton, the Bluejays have long been successful before the school’s leading scorer ever stepped foot on campus. In the past decade, Creighton has failed to reach 20 wins only once and the Jays have finished no worse than fourth in the Missouri Valley standings during that time span.

Dayton Flyers

Conference: Atlantic 10

Record: 17-13 (7-9)—T-11th in the A-10

Record over the past decade: 209-120 (.635 winning percentage)

Conference tournament championships: 2

NCAA Tournament History:

Appearances: 14

Record: 14-16

Sweet Sixteen: 6—1952, ’65-67, ’74, ‘84

Elite Eight: 2—1967, ‘84

Final Four: 1967

National Championship Runner-Up: 1967

Unfortunately for Dayton, its best seasons were before any of the current Flyers players were born. The Flyers have a respectable winning percentage in recent years but they lack banners and trophies to show for it. They were selected to the NCAA Tournament four times since the turn of the century but were eliminated in the first round on three occasions. Dayton also lacks the elusive Atlantic 10 regular season champion honor and the team has only won the A-10 Tournament twice. Regardless of Dayton’s lack of post-season accomplishments, the Flyers are a solid team year in and year out.

Saint Louis Billikens

Conference: Atlantic 10

Record: 24-6 (13-3)—1st in the A-10

Record over the past decade: 183-125 (.594 winning percentage)

Regular season conference championships: 6

Conference tournament championships: 1

NCAA Tournament History:

Appearances: 7

Record: 4-8

Sweet Sixteen: 2—1952, ‘57

Elite Eight: 1952

While SLU’s most accomplished seasons were in the 1950’s, the Billikens are on the rise. In 2011-12, Saint Louis won 26 games and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Billikens won the regular season A-10 title this year with a 13-3 conference record and they were ranked as high as 16th. Saint Louis Head Coach Jim Crews has led the team through the death of SLU’s former coach, Rick Majerus, and many analysts believe that the Billikens could be a sleeper in March.   

Virginia Commonwealth

Conference: Atlantic 10

Record: 24-7 (12-4)—2nd in the A-10

Record over the past decade: 222-92 (.707 winning percentage)

Regular season conference championships: 9

Conference tournament championships: 8

NCAA Tournament History:

Appearances: 11

Record: 11-11

Sweet Sixteen: 2011

Elite Eight: 2011

Final Four: 2011

Virginia Commonwealth is not new to the NCAA Tournament—the Rams participated in March Madness five seasons in a six year span in the early 1980’s. However, VCU then went dormant for nearly two decades before re-emerging as a force to be reckoned with in the postseason. The Rams knocked off Duke in ’07 then made a Final Four run in 2011, in which they lost to a fellow Cinderella team in Butler in the national semifinal. VCU’s move to the Atlantic 10 has paid off as Shaka Smart & Co. have proven themselves against stronger competition than they faced in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Richmond Spiders

Conference: Atlantic 10

Record: 18-13 (8-8)—T-9th in the A-10

Record over the past decade: 180-144 (.556 winning percentage)

Regular season conference championships: 5

Conference tournament championships: 6

NCAA Tournament History:

Appearances: 9

Record: 8-9

Sweet Sixteen: 2—1988, 2011

While Richmond has only one conference honor, 2011 A-10 Tournament champion, since 2001, the Spiders are known for their performances in March. In 1984, Richmond took down Charles Barkley and No. 5 seed Auburn. In 1988, UR defeated the defending national champion, Indiana, in the opening round and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen after beating Georgia Tech. Then in 1991, the Spiders became the first No. 15 seed to beat a No. 2 when they topped Syracuse. While Richmond hasn’t been able to sustain regular season success, the Spiders are deadly in the NCAA Tournament. 

When the new Big East evaluates its options for the conference, it will look for private universities with both a history and recent track record of success in college basketball. There are no bad choices in the group—all of the teams have had some level of regular and postseason successes as well as most schools have trended upward in the past decade.

Assuming that the new Big East will only select private universities, it will likely admit Butler, Xavier and Creighton over the summer. Saint Louis is the next best team out of the private institutions. To make the Big East a 12-team conference, Dayton or Richmond would be the final school. Neither one is a bad choice. Dayton has gone further in the NCAA Tournament on more occasions. However, Richmond has more regular season and conference tournament championships; plus, the Spiders have more damage in March more recently than Dayton.

These additions should make the new Big East a stronger basketball conference in the long run than the America 12, which is the frontrunner for the schools left out of the new conference. Connecticut has won two men’s and three women’s basketball national championships in the past decade but the America 12 will lack the depth that the new Big East will have after 2014.

Big East

America 12

Butler

Central Florida

Creighton

Cincinnati

DePaul

Connecticut

Georgetown

East Carolina

Marquette

Houston

Providence

Memphis

Richmond/Dayton/VCU

Rutgers

Saint Louis

South Florida

Seton Hall

Southern Methodist

St. John’s

Temple

Villanova

Tulane

Xavier

Tulsa

The first college basketball stock report of 2013

Conference play is officially underway in most conferences, which means that it’s time to evaluate whether it’s time to buy, sell or hold stock in some of the country’s top college basketball teams.

BUY

Butler

Brad Stevens has the Butler Bulldogs looking up as they head into A-10 play. (Image courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1446736-butlers-brad-stevens-the-most-job-secure-coach-in-college-basketball)
Brad Stevens has the Butler Bulldogs looking up as they head into A-10 play. (Image courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1446736-butlers-brad-stevens-the-most-job-secure-coach-in-college-basketball)

The Bulldogs’ two losses came in the team’s first five games and since their loss to Illinois, who is currently ranked eleventh, Brad Stevens’ squad has rattled off nine straight victories, including a win over No. 1 Indiana. Butler is playing their trademark tough defense and the Bulldogs have wins over Marquette, North Carolina and Northwestern in addition to knocking off the Hoosiers. Butler is the favorite to win the A-10 and its stock can continue to rise with a good conference record.

VCU

The Rams suffered three early losses to Wichita State, who is likely the second best team in the Missouri Valley, Duke and Missouri. However, VCU rebounded and is 12-3 with favorable chances to win a wide open Atlantic 10.

Minnesota

The Golden Gophers started the season unranked but have won their way to the ninth spot in the rankings. Their lone loss was to Duke, which is certainly nothing to be ashamed of considering the Blue Devils’ success this season. Minnesota is on a nine game win streak and has won six consecutive games by double digits, with the latest being a 76-63 home win against No. 18 Michigan State.

Kansas State

In Bruce Weber’s first year as head coach of the Wildcats, Kansas State is off to an impressive 12-2 record. K-State lost to Michigan and Gonzaga early in the season but have put those behind them with wins over Florida and Oklahoma State. The Wildcats will be in the mix of teams competing for second place in the Big 12 behind Kansas.

Kentucky

UK was way overrated at No. 3 in the preseason but the Wildcats have had time to work out some of their kinks in their non-conference schedule. Ryan Harrow gives them a good option at point guard that they were missing early in the season. They lost to Duke and Louisville, two of the top four teams in the country, and Notre Dame in their first true road test. Many of the growing pains are out of the way and a top three finish in the SEC isn’t out of the question as the will compete with Florida and Missouri for the conference title.

SELL

Ohio State

Brandon Paul and the Fighting Illini handled their business against Ohio State and make basketball fans wonder how good the Buckeyes really are. (Image courtesy of http://www.toledoblade.com/Ohio-State/2013/01/05/No-11-Illinois-rebounds-with-home-win-over-No-8-Buckeyes-74-55.html)
Brandon Paul and the Fighting Illini handled their business against Ohio State and make basketball fans wonder how good the Buckeyes really are. (Image courtesy of http://www.toledoblade.com/Ohio-State/2013/01/05/No-11-Illinois-rebounds-with-home-win-over-No-8-Buckeyes-74-55.html)

The Buckeyes have faced three ranked teams-Duke, Kansas and Illinois-and lost all three games. With six ranked teams in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes will have to win big games, especially on the road, and they haven’t proven that they’re up to the challenge just yet.

Pittsburgh

The Panthers cracked the AP Top 25 with an appearance at No. 24 but it will be short-lived after losing to Cincinnati and Rutgers in their first two Big East games, which makes then tied for last place in the conference. Pittsburgh had two freshmen in the starting lineup, which could make for a slow start to conference play.

Cincinnati

Mick Cronin’s Bearcats reached as high as eighth in the rankings but Cincinnati lost to New Mexico and St. John’s in the team’s last three games. UC has a challenging next matchup when it hosts No. 21 Notre Dame on Monday.

Wisconsin

The Badgers entered the season in the AP Top 25 but fell quickly out of the polls after losses to Florida, Creighton, Virginia and Marquette. Wisconsin plays Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State in consecutive games in January, which bodes for a difficult month and a bad start to Big Ten play.

HOLD

Duke

The Blue Devils have passed every test that has been thrown at them this season but they can only move down in the rankings from the No. 1 spot. Duke will be expected to win the ACC but North Carolina State, North Carolina or Maryland all have the talent to upset the Blue Devils in conference play.

Arizona

Sean Miller’s Wildcats are the best team out West but San Diego State, Colorado and Utah’s close losses have shown that Arizona is vulnerable and it could suffer its first loss to a PAC-12 opponent this month.

Illinois

The Fighting Illini are a very difficult team to examine. They won by double digits against Butler and on the road against Gonzaga. Then Illinois lost to Missouri and Purdue in a three-game stretch, followed by a dominating win over Ohio State. Illinois is certainly a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten but their up and down play gives the impression that they will have their share of impressive wins and tough losses this season.

Oklahoma State

The Cowboys blew out North Carolina State early in the season but have lost consecutive games to No. 10 Gonzaga and No. 25 Kansas State, which means that Oklahoma State still has room for improvement in the remainder of the season.

Michigan

The country’s No. 2 team is off to a 15-0 start but it is only a matter of time until the Wolverines lose their first game. The Big Ten schedule for every team is a mine field–one bad step or slip up and Michigan can receive the first blemish on its 2012-13 campaign. However, the Wolverines are one of the best teams in the country and will give Indiana a run for its money to win the Big Ten.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sports.Eat.Sleep.Repeat.!

The Future of the “Catholic Seven”

Last week, the Big East’s seven Catholic, non-FBS schools voted to leave due to the uncertainty of the conference’s future. DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova are set to officially leave the Big East on June 30, 2015 according to Big East spokesman John Paquette and ESPN.com.

The Catholic 7 announced last week that they voted and are going to leave the Big East to form their own conference. (Image courtesy of http://collegebasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/12/15/catholic-7-release-statement-announcing-departure-from-big-east/)
The Catholic 7 announced last week that they voted and are going to leave the Big East to form their own conference. (Image courtesy of http://collegebasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/12/15/catholic-7-release-statement-announcing-departure-from-big-east/)

Ideally, the “Catholic Seven” will campaign to other schools to join them in the creation of a ten-team conference. The schools have two options for the expansion of their future conference–either recruit only Catholic, non-FBS universities or take in the best available schools regardless of their religious affiliations.

If the Catholic Seven want to go the Catholic route, they could acquire Xavier, Dayton and Saint Louis to form a ten team conference. While all three programs would currently be classified as “mid-majors,” they bring recent success that would help the depth of the future conference. The Musketeers have gone to the NCAA Tournament every year since 2006 and have made the Sweet Sixteen five times in the past decade. While Dayton hasn’t made the tourney since 2009, the Flyers’ record has been respectable. UD has a 117-59 record since the ’07-’08 season and the school won the NIT in 2010. Saint Louis is often up and down in the A-10 standings but the Billikens are fresh off of 25-7 season in which they lost in the third round to No. 1 seed Michigan State.

On the other hand, if the seven schools want to compile the best field of teams, then they could look to take Butler and Virginia Commonwealth from the Atlantic 10, in addition to a third school of their choice. Under Coach Brad Stevens, the Butler Bulldogs have a 147-42 record, two National Runner-Up titles, four NCAA Tournament appearances and four conference titles. With an 8-2 start, including wins over No. 9 UNC and No. 1 Indiana, the Bulldogs are back in the spotlight as one of the country’s most relentless teams. Assuming that Butler would be willing to leave the A-10 only a few years after joining the conference, the Bulldogs would be a great addition to the Catholic Seven. Similarly to Butler, Virginia Commonwealth has a young coach who has led the Rams to unimaginable success in the NCAA Tournament. In Shaka Smart’s first season at VCU, the team won the 2010 College Basketball Invitational. In the next two seasons, the Rams made the Final Four and the third round of the tourney. This season, VCU is 8-3 with close losses to No. 5 Duke and No. 13 Missouri. Acquiring Butler, VCU and Xavier would make the Catholic Seven a stronger basketball conference than the future Big East, Pac-12 and A-10.

There are a lot of moving parts in this conference re-alignment but the Catholic Seven have a number of schools to choose from and there are no bad choices among them.

Reflecting on Butler’s Upset of No. 1 Indiana

Saturday’s matchup between No. 1 Indiana and Butler was supposed to be about the 9-0 Hoosiers adding freshmen Peter Jurkin and Hanner Mosquera-Perea to their lineup after they served their nine game suspensions. In pre-game warmups, senior forward Derek Elston participated in drills with the rest of the players, indicating that he might take the court sooner than expected after he suffered a torn meniscus at Hoosier Hysteria. However, Brad Stevens and the Butler Bulldogs had other intentions for Saturday afternoon.

Saturday, December 15th was the first regular season appearance for Indiana freshman Hanner Mosquera-Perea.
Saturday, December 15th was the first regular season appearance for Indiana freshman Hanner Mosquera-Perea.

Butler entered the game 8-2 with its only losses coming to Xavier on the road and an Illinois squad that’s now ranked tenth in the country. While the Bulldogs were not ranked entering the Boston Scientific Close the Gap Crossroads Classic, their 88-86 victory over Indiana was not their first step into the national spotlight. Butler was the national runner up in both 2010 and 2011. In the Maui Invitational in mid-November, Butler beat then-No. 9 North Carolina 82-71 and led by as many as 29 points in the second half.

Butler never let IU lead by more than seven points, which is dangerous for any team playing the Bulldogs. Butler is the little engine that could and if they hang around long enough in a close game, the Bulldogs can beat any team in the country, as proven by their play over the past four seasons.

Mosquera-Perea, Jurkin, and Elston did not impact the game at all. Jurkin and Elston were on the bench for the entire contest and Mosquera-Perea only played three minutes, scored two points, and grabbed one rebound.

Butler deserved to win because they outplayed Indiana over the course of 45 minutes. While Cody Zeller’s stat line of 18 points and five rebounds does not reflect it, the preseason national player of the year was dominated by Butler center Andrew Smith. Roosevelt Jones posted a double-double for Butler with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Khyle Marshall, Rotnei Clarke, and Erik Fromm also scored in double figures for the Bulldogs.

Clarke was 5-11 from behind the arc, including a three-pointer with 1:40 left in overtime to bring Butler within one point of Indiana. While IU junior Victor Oladipo held Clarke in check for most of the game, fellow Hoosier Will Sheehey could not. Whenever Indiana was on the move looking to make a run, the senior transfer from Arkansas made a big shot. When the Hoosiers maintained a lead for the first time in the first half, Clarke hit a three to steal the lead right back. When IU was winning by five in the final minutes of the first half, he was there again to cut the deficit to two points.

While the Bulldogs made only four percent more of their three-point shots, Butler made 11 to Indiana’s five. Even though Jordan Hulls had 11 shot attempts, he uncharacteristically did not make a three-point basket.

Indiana may have lost the game at the free throw line. The Hoosiers were 27-38 from the charity stripe and just a few more points from made free throws could have changed the outcome of the game.

Once again, Christian Watford was nowhere to be found. He was 1-5 shooting and only grabbed three rebounds. It is no surprise that he has fallen out of 2013 NBA Mock Drafts. He is incredibly inconsistent and has yet to take over a game against a major opponent.

Indiana appeared to be in good position to win the game when the Hoosiers forced some of Butler’s best players into foul trouble. Roosevelt Jones was called for his fourth foul with 15:11 remaining in the second half and Andrew Smith received his fourth with 10:24 to play. However, both players managed to stay at four fouls until two minutes left in the game. Indiana was in the double bonus and had Butler on its last legs but failed to pound the ball into the paint and draw fouls on the Bulldogs.

On paper, Indiana had the advantage in overtime with all five of the team’s starters on the court and two of Butler’s frontcourt players fouled out of the game. Defensive lapses and consecutive three-pointers forced the Hoosiers on their heels. A layup by Alex Barlow with five seconds remaining in OT proved to be the game-winner as Jordan Hulls’ last second three fell short of the basket.

Only eight men’s college basketball teams have gone undefeated since 1939 and no team has since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. There is not a school, even the No. 1 Indiana Hoosiers, that is expected to go undefeated. Losses, especially those in road environments such as the Bankers Life Fieldhouse, which was filled with Butler and Purdue fans, are chances for growth. Butler is well-deserving of a top 25 ranking and Indiana is unlikely to fall outside of the top five. Teams are still in the non-conference portions of their schedules, which means that there are still several months remaining until the time of the year when wins and losses define a team.

All of that being said, the first year of the Close the Gap Crossroads Classic was a great success. There was high-quality basketball in both the Indiana-Butler and Notre Dame-Purdue matchups. Indiana, Notre Dame, and Butler are all nationally relevant teams and this annual event will hopefully continue to bring lots of competition and pride to Indiana basketball for years to come.

Unproven Xavier Beats Butler for Its Second Win of the Season

The Xavier Musketeers had an abundance of questions being asked about them entering the season and they were all appropriate. Three starters, point guard Tu Holloway, forward Andre Walker, and center Kenny Frease, graduated after last season. Mark Lyons was unwilling to command the leadership role that Xavier Coach Chris Mack envisioned him to play in as a senior and transferred to the University of Arizona to join the No. 12 Wildcats. Dez Wells was expelled from Xavier University after a sexual assault charge was brought against him, which was later dropped. Wells transferred and is playing for Maryland.

2011-12 Xavier Musketeers
Xavier Musketeers 2012-13 Individual Statistics

Who did the Muskies have left on the 2012-13 roster? The leading scorer from last year is senior forward Travis Taylor, who averaged 4.5 points and 3.7 rebounds last season. In total, XU has 16.1 points per game from last year’s squad returning this season. A number of players are going to have to step up on a Musketeers team that is filled with freshmen, walk-ons, and players who have seen limited playing time in the past at Xavier.

Two games is a limited sample size but in that time span, the Xavier players have answered their call to action.

In the season opener against Fairleigh Dickinson, the Musketeers started the season with a 117-75 victory. Tu Holloway’s replacement, sophomore point guard Dee Davis, recorded a double-double with 22 points on 8-11 shooting (5-7 from behind the arc) and 15 assists. Six other Xavier players scored in double digits. Taylor scored twenty points, grabbed twelve rebounds, and dished out three assists. Senior shooting guard Brad Redford lit it up from behind the three-point line by hitting six of seven and finishing with nineteen points. XU shot over 70% from the field and connected on 62% of the three-point shots.

Dee Davis has big shoes to fill by replacing Tu Holloway. Courtesy of http://www.purdueexponent.org/sports/mens/basketball/collection_eb4a2b0e-1e08-11e1-a0c5-0019bb30f31a.html.

Xavier’s second game of the season was part of ESPN’s 2012 Tip-Off Marathon. The Muskies were matched up against the one of additions to the Atlantic 10, Brad Stevens’ Butler Bulldogs. XU showed that it could play up-tempo in the season opener and slowed the game down against Butler.

The Bulldogs have been known in recent years to win by playing tough defense and limiting their opponents to fewer than sixty points per game. When Butler made it to the 2010 NCAA National Championship, the team held their opponents to 59, 52, 59, 56, 50, and 61 points in the Bulldogs’ six games. In 2011, it was much of the same. They allowed an average of 61.3 points per game in their second consecutive appearance in the title game.

On Tuesday, Xavier beat Butler at their own game. The Musketeers gave up very few open shots or good looks. XU limited Butler to 36% shooting and 22% from behind the arc. Their defense harassed Butler for forty minutes. They rotated well on screens, rotated well, played good help-side defense, and switched effectively on pick and rolls. Senior forward Jeff Robinson led all scorers with seventeen points and he also collected eight rebounds. Freshman point guard Semaj Christon missed Xavier’s first game of the season because he elbowed walk-0n Tim Whelan, which knocked out two of Whelan’s teeth and caused Christon’s elbow to get infected. In his first game, Christon had a team-high eight assists. Travis Taylor recorded 15 points and 9 rebounds. Xavier’s largest lead was twenty-one and their transition offense ate up the Bulldogs’ defense.

It is very early in the season but XU is already exceeding expectations. They have shown they can score in triple-digits. They have shown that they can play shutdown defense. Now the Musketeers need to string together wins and prove themselves against respected opponents if they want to make the NCAA Tournament.