Butler v Xavier

St. Louis loss caps of a tough week in the A-10

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The Atlantic 10 has had better weeks.

It started with Butler losing to Xavier during Marathon Madness. Actually, ‘losing’ probably isn’t the correct word to use there. Smacked seems more appropriate given the 62-47 final and the fact that the Bulldogs simply did not look very good. There could be an explanation for that, however; Butler wouldn’t be the first team to run into a buzzsaw at the Cintas Center.

And couldn’t we have all just underrated Xavier? I mean, maybe the impressive win was simply a result of the Musketeers playing great as much as it was a symbol of Butler’s downfall. And, since Xavier and Butler are now conference rivals, that could be taken as a positive sign for the league as a whole, right?

Well, that argument doesn’t hold water for VCU. The Rams, who were picked by many to be the league champion in the preseason, lost to Wichita State at home on Tuesday night. The Shockers were one of the more underrated teams in the country last season, but they lost quite a bit to graduation. They aren’t the same team as last year, the one that beat Creighton by two full games for the MVC regular season title, but they still beat VCU in Richmond.

The roughest loss came on Wednesday night. St. Louis, who was, at one time, thought to be the best team in the conference, got drubbed by Santa Clara, losing 74-62 in a game wasn’t nearly that close.

The Billikens are playing without Kwamain Mitchell, their starting point guard and most talented player, and that’s a loss that certainly hurts this group. But whether or not Mitchell is in the lineup doesn’t change the fact that Rick Majerus isn’t coaching this team, and after a less-than-stirring, 17 point win over USC-Upstate in the opener, that looks like it could be a major issue.

So for those scoring at home, three Atlantic 10 favorites lost in the span of about 30 hours. That will be costly for the league as a whole, as it could end up hurting the league’s RPI. A strong non-conference RPI — bolstered by strong non-conference performances by the league as a whole — is the quickest ticket to those last couple of at-large bids.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Marcus Paige, Joel Berry lead No. 9 North Carolina past No. 2 Maryland

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.

For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the NBCSports.com Preseason National Player of the Year.

On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.

Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.

Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.

In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.

As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.

(More to come from Chapel Hill…)

VIDEO: Melo Trimble drops Nate Britt with a crossover

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North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.

(H/T: The Cauldron)