Bucknell quickly came a trendy upset pick when the brackets were announced on Sunday evening, and it wasn’t necessarily wrong.
The Bison are really good and they have an NBA caliber center in Mike Muscala. That’s a combination that is ideal when trying to identify what under-the-radar teams have a chance to make a run in the tournament.
Except for one thing: they drew Butler.
That’s the Butler that is coached by Brad Stevens. The Butler that has 6-foot-11 grinder Andrew Smith in the middle. The Butler that can be as physical and stymieing defensively as anyone in the country. No one in the country game-plans better than Stevens, and no team in the country executes a game-plan better than his Bulldogs.
Which, if you listened to me (I love self-congratulation), means that you are happy after No. 6 seed Butler’s 68-56 win over No. 11 Bucknell in the opening round of East Region play out in Lexington. Muscala finished with nine points on 4-17 shooting to go along with 10 boards and four fouls, and outside of a flurry of early-second half mid-range jumpers from Joe William (20 points, 10-17 shooting) and a bunch of threes in the final minutes when the outcome had already been decided, the Bison spent a good 30 minutes of this game completely incapable of executing offensively.
And that’s good news for the Bulldogs.
Because they weren’t all that good on Thursday, either. Rotnei Clarke was 5-14 from the floor and 2-8 from three; he missed his first six triples — Butler as a team missed their first 14 — before hitting two daggers in the final minutes. As a team, Butler shot 36.4% from the field and 3-17 from three.
They won this game because they were able to defend, something that Butler is going to be able to do pretty consistently. And if you think Clarke and company are going to shoot that poorly throughout the whole tournament, well, it’s no wonder you’re already 0-1 in your bracket in the East Region.
Butler advances to take on the winner of No. 3 Marquette-No. 14 Davidson.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Prior to a one-year stint as the head coach coach at Bowling Green that came to an end in early April as a result of an incident at a Bowling Green restaurant, Chris Jans was a member of Gregg Marshall’s coaching staff at Wichita State from 2007-14. During those seven seasons Jans was a key figure as the Shockers made the progression to a respected national power.
Jans is back in Wichita, with Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle reporting Thursday that he’s serving as a consultant to the program. Jans’ consulting agreement runs for 45 days, which the school can renew, and he’ll be paid $10,000 for the work. While Jans isn’t allowed to do any coaching, he can watch practices and provide Marshall and the coaching staff with his observations.
“He will be able to consult with the coaching staff, only on what he observes in practice,” said Darron Boatright, WSU deputy athletics director. “By NCAA rule, a consultant is not allowed to have communication with student-athletes … not about basketball-related activities or performance.”
While Jans (who according to the story has served in a similar role for another school) can’t do any coaching in this role, his return does give Marshall another trusted voice to call upon when needed. Wichita State bid farewell to an assistant coach this spring with Steve Forbes being hired as the head coach at East Tennessee State, with his position being filled by former Sunrise Christian Academy coach Kyle Lindsted.
Thursday afternoon marked the first time since Friday that Louisville head coach Rick Pitino commented on the controversy that has taken his program by storm. Speaking with Terry Meiners of 840 WHAS in Louisville, Pitino discussed the escort scandal, what could have possibly led former staffer Andre McGee down the path he’s alleged to have taken in Katina Powell’s book and his future at Louisville.
The interview began with Meiners asking Pitino if it changed his thinking as to whether or not he needed to resign, which (as one would expect) Pitino shot down. Also discussed was the statement released by school president Dr. James Ramsey, which expressed support for athletic director Tom Jurich but did not mention Pitino at all.
“Well I can’t answer that, Terry,” Pitino said when asked why he wasn’t mentioned in the statement. “Twenty-six years ago Kentucky brought me in to make the program compliant to NCAA rules. (Then-Kentucky president) Dr. (David) Roselle and (then Kentucky athletic director) C.M. Newton thought I was the guy to come in and change around the images, change around the culture and add a lot of discipline to the program. And I did that.
“And then I came here to the University of Louisville, and if someone was five seconds late or not early consequences would be paid from a disciplinary standpoint,” Pitino continued. “This is obviously not a person being late, this is not about a person (not) working hard. This is about things that are very disgusting, things that turn my stomach, things that keep me up without sleeping.
“But unfortunately, I had no knowledge of any of this and don’t believe in it. It’s sickening to me, the whole thing. But I’m thinking of my 13 players, I’m thinking of our program, and I’m sorry that Dr. Ramsey did not think enough to mention me but that’s something I cannot control.”
Below is audio of the full interview, which ran just over 17 minutes in length.