Duquesne v Butler

Five Thoughts: Why Butler and Missouri aren’t as different as you think

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How come there aren’t more people questioning Butler?: Butler lost to St. Louis in Hinkle Fieldhouse on Friday night. It was the second time that they have lost to the Billikens this season (the first was a blowout that came at Chaifetz Arena) and the second time in the span of nine days that they lost at home in league play. As we continue to watch Butler play less-than-dominating basketball throughout A-10 play, it raises the question: Just how good are the Bulldogs?

I’ve had no issue questioning whether or not Arizona is truly as good as their rankings indicates, and I’m certainly not the only one to do so. They’ve won a couple close games they probably didn’t deserve to win against some of the best competition in the country, and as a result, the Wildcats has seen their ranking get inflated. Couldn’t it be argued the same thing has happened with Butler?

Their three biggest wins of the season have all come on fluky — fascinating, thrilling and the epitome of “Butler Magic”, but fluky nonetheless — finishes. There was Rotnei Clarke’s running 25-footer to beat Marquette; There was Alex Barlow’s runner in the lane in overtime to beat Indiana; There was Roosevelt Jones’ steal and floater to beat Gonzaga.

If those three shots don’t go down, is Butler a bubble team? Should we be concerned about the fact that Butler’s Kenpom ranking is 52nd? Just how much stock can we put in “Butler Magic”? And yes, I do know that they’ve dealt with injuries to two key players during the season.

You bet against Brad Stevens at your own risk, but if this may be the year where betting on Butler losing early in the tournament could pay off.

Missouri’s Pressey-ing problem: There may not be five players in the country that are as important to their team’s success as Phil Pressey is to Missouri’s. With a roster that’s devoid of players capable of creating for themselves, Frank Haith has been forced into a situation where he has to rely on his star point guard to shoulder a massive burden as a creator.

The problem is Flip’s decision-making, especially late in games on the road. Missouri has five true road losses this season that came down to the final possession (I’m including their seven-point overtime loss to Kentucky on Saturday night in this conversation), and all five of those losses have one thing in common: a bad decision by Pressey costing the Tigers down the stretch.

Now think about that in context with what we just discussed regarding Butler. How much differently would we view them if three of those final possessions ended with a bucket instead of a turnover or a missed shot? Winning and executing in the clutch is a skill, so it’s not to be glossed over, but it is something worth thinking about.

Marshall Henderson, sixth-man?: Coming off of a loss at South Carolina, Ole Miss needed a change, and it looks like Andy Kennedy found exactly what he needed: a new sixth-man. Kennedy brought Henderson off the bench on Saturday, and it worked, as Henderson his eight threes and scored 28 points for the Rebels. Granted, that performance came in a blowout win over Auburn, but it was a much-needed hot-shooting night for the slumping sharpshooter.

Weirdest ending of the season: You missed it because CBS cut away from the ending of the South Carolina-Georgia game to air the start of Georgetown-Syracuse, but we saw our first do-over in college hoops in … well, ever? Here’s what happened:

There were 8.9 seconds left on the clock after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope drained a 3 to tie the game at 54. That’s when it got crazy: The clock ran before South Carolina inbounded the ball, which officials didn’t notice until after South Carolina’s Bruce Ellington missed a 3 at the buzzer.

The officials then went to the video review, as both teams huddled up, figuring there would be overtime. After a lengthy review, the officials decided to put 4.5 seconds back on the clock, and give South Carolina the ball on its own baseline – 94 feet away from the basket it needed to score at.

South Carolina couldn’t score on the second try and ended up losing in overtime, but man, what a wacky way to end regulation.

Oh, Sam Thompson:

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Cyclones add big man for 2017

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 15:  Head coach Steve Prohm of the Murray State Racers shouts from the sidelines against the Colorado State Rams  during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KFC YUM! Center on March 15, 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Iowa State secured its first commitment Wednesday of what will be a pivotal class of forwards in 2017.

KeyShawn Faezell of Mississippi committed to Steve Prohm and the Cyclones, he announced Wednesday.

“After praying to God to lead me in the right path and talking with my dad,” Faezell wrote, “I’ve decided to further my education and basketball career under coach Prohm at Iowa State University.”

Faezell, a 6-foot-9 consensus top-150 forward in the 2017 class, joins wing Terrence Lewis as the first two members of a class that figures to number at least six for ISU. The addition of Faezell is key because ISU will be losing three members of its frontcourt it will likely be leaning on heavily in 2015-16 in Deonte Burton, Merrill Holden and Darrell Bowie. A 2016 big man, Cameron Lard, has also yet to enroll in classes this fall due to academic issues, making Faezell’s commitment even more important should Lard be unable to get clearance.

“They need some people to come in and compete,” Feazell told the Ames Tribune. “I think I fit in the program.”

Prohm’s teams dating back to his Murray State days have always been guard-oriented and guard-heavy, but beginning to stack the roster with quality big men will be key as he looks to continue the Cyclones’ success in the Big 12, which includes a school-record five-straight NCAA tournament appearances.

BYU adds commit for 2019

Dave Rose
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BYU added a commitment from a high school senior this week, but the Cougars won’t be seeing him on campus until 2019.

Kolby Lee, a 6-foot-9 forward from Idaho, pledged to BYU on Monday evening, but won’t suit up until after serving a two-year mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints, according to the Deseret News.

“I had a great feeling about BYU, and I prayed about it,” Lee told the paper. “I just feel like it’s the right fit for me. It just seems right. It feels right.”

Lee chose BYU over offers from  Utah State, Boise State and UC Davis. He was rated a four-star prospect by ESPN and three by Scout.

His decision to forego immediately joining BYU certainly isn’t a new wrinkle for the Cougars, who routinely see their players either delay their initial eligibility or pause it mid-career while serving on missions.

Self pays freshman Jackson a major compliment

Josh Jackson, from Napa, Calif.,, dunks over Nancy Mulkey, from Cypress, Texas, as he competes in the slam dunk contest during the McDonald's All-American Jam Fest, Monday, March 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
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Freshman phenom production under Bill Self has been something of a contentious topic. Many fault the coach, who has won one national title and 12-straight Big 12 championships, for not developing one-and-done talent to their fullest potential during their single-season stays in Lawrence. Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo are Exhibit 1-A and 1-B for this argument in recent years.

Whatever outside criticism there is (Andrew Wiggins did go No. 1 overall just 2 years ago, after all), Self isn’t shying away from hyping the latest freshman with big expectations to come to KU. When asked who the greatest athlete of all-time is at the school’s annual Tradition Night last week, Self had a simple, if tongue-and-cheek, response.

“I’ll say Josh Jackson,” Self said of the the 6-foot-8 shooting guard ranked No. 1 in his class, according to Lawrence Journal-World.

With others answering with the likes of Michael Jordan and Muhammed Ali, it’s pretty fair to say Self was playing to the crowd with the answer, but it’s still telling that he was willing to deliver such a sound bite, even if it was before a welcoming audience. Self didn’t try to seriously depress expectations for Wiggins, a player Jackson is often compared to, and it looks like he won’t for Jackson as well.

Jackson, though, won’t have the burden Wiggins had as there’s one of the country’s best backcourts in Frank Mason II and Devonte Graham to help shoulder the workload for the Jayhawks.

 

ACC non-commital on HB2 stance

John Swofford
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With North Carolina unwilling to rescind their controversial so-called bathroom bill, the NBA has withdrawn its All-Star Game from the state this year and numerous high-profile music acts have canceled performances as a result.

The ACC is declining to join them with a hard-line, or really any, position.

“We don’t want to damage our league with any premature decisions,” commissioner John Swofford said on The David Glenn Show. “We’ll just see how it plays out.”

The ACC, of course, has quite the presence in the state with North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest all in the Tar Heel State. Swofford’s comments are sure to draw the interest of the LGBT community, which has roundly been critical of the bill, which requires people to use the bathroom which corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate, and has recently been active in college athletics, opposing the Big 12’s potential inclusion of BYU in its expansion plans over concerns of the Church of Latter Day Saints school’s honor code.

North Carolina’s bill has also drawn the eye of the NCAA, which is requiring potential championship sights to provide information on local anti-discrimination laws.

One of the loudest voices in the ACC, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, has come out against the law.

“It’s an embarrassing bill,” Coach K said last month.

The Champions Classic renewed through 2019

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 27: Bill Self head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks claps for his team as they celebrate winning the Big 12 Conference Championship after they defeated Texas Tech Red Raiders 67-58 at Allen Fieldhouse on February 27, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas. With the win, Kansas clinched its 12th straight conference championship. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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The Champions Classic is back, baby!!!

On Wednesday, the four schools that participate in the event — Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State — announced that they have signed deals to extend the life of the doubleheader for another three years.

This is terrific news. The Champions Classic is always the best early-season event of the season, an annual double-header that always ends up putting together two of the best non-conference games in packed NBA arenas. This year, it features Duke, the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the country, squaring off with Kansas, who is a consensus top three team with the No. 1 freshman in the class, Josh Jackson, on their roster, in one game.

The other game? Kentucky, the third consensus top three team nationally, going up against Tom Izzo and Michigan State, who will be, at worst, a top 15 team in the preseason polls.

So yeah, we’re going to get a pair of sensational basketball games in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15th. MSG also just so happens to be the best arena to watch a great neutral site basketball game.

It’s going to be awesome.

There’s only one possible way to make it better: turn it into a two-day event, with the winners squaring off for the Champions Classic title the following night.

Make it happen.

Anyway, here’s the schedule:

Nov. 14, 2017 (United Center, Chicago)
Kansas vs. Kentucky
Duke vs. Michigan State

Nov. 13, 2018 (Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis)
Michigan State vs. Kansas
Duke vs. Kentucky

Nov. 12, 2019 (Madison Square Garden, New York)
Kansas vs. Duke
Michigan State vs. Kentucky