Butler doesn’t look for real, not yet at least

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AMHERST, Mass. — The student section was ready 50 minutes before the game and headed for the exits before the final horn sounded. The Butler Bulldogs came into the Mullins Center and silenced the crowd en route to a much-needed 73-62 bounce-back win against UMass on Thursday night.

Butler is coming off a home loss to Saint Louis followed by a 30-point blowout to VCU. In a win, when Butler held the lead for all 40 minutes, head coach Brad Stevens and Co. are now able to put a difficult two-game slide in the past and gear towards conference and NCAA tournaments.

“To be 23-7 with our schedule is pretty remarkable,” said Stevens. “Tonight was a step forward in playing well.

“We got drilled. We’ve gotten drilled a couple times this season and every time we’ve gotten better. So that was a good thing at VCU in the long run.”

Stevens added in the postgame press conference that he believed they caught the Rams at their best and after coughing the ball up 20 times, he’s probably accurate with that statement. Kameron Woods, who scored 17 points, said the team held a meeting to discuss each players roles while Andrew Smith mentioned the practices have been more focused.

“I don’t think we questioned ourselves, we needed to regroup,” said Woods. “Even the games before that we weren’t playing as well as we should have. We eked out a couple of close wins and sometimes you get satisfied with that.”

Butler appeared to regain that toughness, against a UMass team still fighting for a spot on the bubble (which likely bursted after Thursday). The Bulldogs have five conference losses on the season. In the Horizon League, an at-large bid is not a reality, it Butler’s first year in the A10, it’s a solid start, especially considering the schedule its faced.

“To go on the road and have play in the environments we have in all the way through the A10 and to be 5-3 in those games is quiet an accomplishment,” said Stevens. “I think it’s a huge win for us. People don’t understand how hard it is to come on the road and win. I told them that they earned some Butler stripes tonight.

Butler had to go on the road at VCU, La Salle, and had to play Saint Louis twice. Match that with an out of conference schedule with wins over No. 1 Indiana, North Carolina, Gonzaga and Marquette. The Bulldogs have also been handed a heavy-dose of late-game situations, both which have go for and against them.

Butler was knocked down to end February with a loss at home. March didn’t start off any better with a 32-point whooping. However, true to form Stevens and his Bulldogs are getting back up. The first step in the right direction has been made and heading into tournament play, history shows never to rule out Butler.

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.


AP Poll: Syracuse, Xavier big winners in college basketball rankings

(Brad Horrigan/The Courant via AP)
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The new college basketball AP Poll is out, and it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to you that Syracuse and Xavier are the big winners.

The Orange steamrolled through a good Battle 4 Atlantis field, while Xavier capped a dominating performance in the Advocare Invitational with a 29-point win over Dayton. It should be no surprise that they are where they are.

[MORE RANKINGS: NBCSports.com top 25 | Coaches Poll]

It is a bit surprising, however, that both Texas A&M and Providence made it into the polls with a loss this week. They both deserve to be there, I just wasn’t sure they were both going to be.

Anyway, here is the full poll:

1. Kentucky (59 first place votes)
2. Maryland (4)
3. Michigan State (2)
4. Kansas
5. Iowa State
6. Oklahoma
7. Duke
8. Villanova
9. North Carolina
10. Virginia
11. Purdue
12. Xavier
13. Gonzaga
14. Syracuse
15. Oregon
16. Vanderbilt
17. Cincinnati
18. Texas A&M
19. Arizona
20. West Virginia
21. Miami
22. SMU
23. Providence
24. Louisville
25. Baylor

NEW THIS WEEK: Syracuse, West Virginia, SMU, Providence, Louisville

DROPPED OUT: Indiana, Cal, UConn, LSU, Wichita State