Clarke hit six threes while chipping in with six boards and four assists. Center Andrew Smith added 24 points and 10 boards, six on the offensive end, as the Bulldogs managed to pull-away late in the second half in one of the more entertaining games that we are going to see this season.
Both teams shot the ball well from three. Both teams got up and down the floor. Both teams struggled with the concept of defense. They traded runs. The difference? Butler was able to execute down the stretch, while St. Joe’s lost yet another close game.
That was something St. Joe’s struggled with mightily last season, and an issue they haven’t exactly fixed early on this season. Call it what you want — poor execution, bad late-game coaching, questionable decision-making — but more than anything, it’s a consistent problem that needs to be addressed.
The point that needs to be taken out of this game, however, is that Butler is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the A-10.
What better way to introduce yourself to the conference than to go into the gym of the team picked to win the conference and leave with a victory?
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.