Butler's Brad Stevens goes onto the court against Indiana during an NCAA basketball game in Indianapolis

Brad Stevens’ departure to Boston isn’t doomsday for the Butler program


Butler was good before Brad Stevens got there.

In the wake of the news that the now-former Butler head coach has taken on the role of being Doc Rivers’ replacement with the Boston Celtics, that’s the most important fact to remember here.

Brad Stevens made Butler a national phenomenon by taking them to back-to-back title games, but he didn’t build that program.

Barry Collier — who is currently Butler’s AD — did. He took them to three NCAA tournament appearances in four seasons in the late ’90s before leaving to take over the basketball program at Nebraska. His replacement? Thad Matta, who coached at Butler for one season and took them to the second round of the NCAA tournament before leaving to become the head coach at Ohio State. Next in line was Todd Lickliter, who took Butler to two NCAA tournaments, two NITs and won three Horizon League titles in his six seasons with the Bulldogs before he headed off to take over at Iowa.

Prior to Stevens’ arrival, the Bulldogs were one of the best mid-major programs in the country.

What Stevens did by leading them to NCAA tournament glory was build Butler’s brand. He made the program nationally recognizable instead of just being the best basketball school in Indianapolis. He led them from the Horizon League into the Atlantic 10 and put them on the precipice of a dive into major conference basketball, as the Bulldogs will begin their tenure in the Big East next season.

And yes, that is going to be a difficult thing to do with Stevens gone, but there is still a roster full of talent left behind. And there is still an impressive coaching tree that includes current South Alabama head coach and former Butler associate head coach Matt Graves, Michigan assistant coach LaVall Jordan, South Alabama assistant coach — and former media darling — Ronald Nored, current Butler assistant coach Brandon Miller. The list goes on.

Brad Stevens was a blessing to the Butler program and led them to the kind of success that they may never see again.

But the Bulldogs were good before he got there.

And there’s no reason to think that will change now that he’s gone.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.

Tyler Ulis injured as No. 1 Kentucky beats South Florida

Tyler Ulis, Ky Howard
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MIAMI (AP) Jamal Murray had 21 points and No. 1 Kentucky scored the final 15 points of the first half on the way to beating South Florida 84-63 in the HoopHall Miami Invitational on Friday.

Skal Labissiere added 17 points for the Wildcats (6-0), who led by as many as 31. Charles Matthews scored 11 points and Isaiah Briscoe finished with seven assists for Kentucky, now a winner of 37 consecutive regular-season games and 39 in a row against unranked opponents.

Chris Perry scored 14 points for USF (1-5), which has lost 18 consecutive games against teams ranked in the Top 25. Jaleel Cousins added 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, and Jahmal McMurray scored 11 points for the Bulls.

Kentucky played the second half without starting guard Tyler Ulis, who departed with a right elbow injury after getting hurt while fighting for a ball loose on the floor.

Kentucky announced after the game that the injury was a hyperextension of the elbow and that he will be day-to-day.

The Bulls were within 27-21 with 6 minutes left in the first half after McMurray banked in a 3-pointer only a few feet away from where John Calipari was standing, and the look of anguish on the Kentucky coach’s face was clear.

It didn’t last long.

The Wildcats scored on seven of their next nine possessions and the game was over by halftime, Kentucky going into the break with a 42-21 lead.

It was a reunion for plenty of people on both benches. Calipari squared off with his former assistant Orlando Antigua, now in his second year leading USF. Antigua’s staff includes another former Calipari assistant in Rod Strickland, plus former Kentucky basketball staff members Mike Malone and Dominic Lombardi.

So the staffs have plenty of familiarity. On the court, there was plenty of disparity. Kentucky finished with a commanding 23-6 edge in points off turnovers and finished with 16 assists to the Bulls’ six.