Brandon Miller

Brandon Miller era at Butler set to begin in the ‘Land Down Under’

Leave a comment

It’s been an eventful offseason for the Butler men’s basketball program. In addition to saying goodbye to four seniors, including leading scorers Rotnei Clarke and Andrew Smith, the program also saw head coach Brad Stevens leave to take over the same position with the Boston Celtics.

Into his role slides Brandon Miller, who joined Stevens’ staff as an assistant in April (replacing Matthew Graves, who’s now the head coach at South Alabama). And there’s also the small matter of moving from the Atlantic 10 to the Big East.

Taking all of the changes into consideration, this makes for a good offseason for the program to take advantage of the NCAA rule allowing programs to take one offseason trip every four years.

On Saturday the Bulldog travel party will leave Indianapolis for Australia, where they’ll play four exhibition games over the course of 11 days.

That leaves a lot of time for the team, which includes six freshmen (and just two seniors), to not only take in the sights that Australia has to offer but also build stronger relationships according to Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star.

“Teammates get to see each other outside of basketball,” Miller said after practice at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Thursday evening. “You’re with everybody the entire trip. They get to see coaches outside of basketball. This is a team building trip, and a trip these guys will remember forever.”

The last time Butler went overseas was just before the start of the 2009-10 season, when that group visited Italy. The hope for this season’s team is that their trip will have a similar effect, as the 2009-10 Bulldogs went on to win 33 games and were mere centimeters away from winning a national title.

Duplicating that feat will be tough however, given not only the production lost from last season’s team but also the program’s new surroundings.

Butler’s schedule now includes programs such as Creighton, Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova and Xavier (obviously they’re familiar with the Musketeers since they were also in the A-10 last season), and Providence and St. John’s should be formidable as well.

But few had that 2009 reaching the national title game, and this current group doesn’t lack for talent thanks to the return of key contributors such as Roosevelt Jones (10.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.5 apg), Khyle Marshall (9.6, 4.5) and Kellen Dunham (9.5, 2.8).

Add to that mix a talented crop of freshmen that includes Nolan Berry, Elijah Brown, Rene Castro and Andrew Chrabascz and coach Miller has some solid pieces to work with in 2013-14. How good can Butler be? They’ll take the first step towards finding out when they board the plane on Saturday.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
Leave a comment

Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.

VIDEO: New Mexico loses game on blown call by officials

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 11.57.22 PM
Leave a comment

Nothing like a nice, controversial finish to get the blood flowing.

New Mexico was on the receiving end of a rule misinterpretation on Saturday afternoon, and that interpretation likely cost the Lobos a win over San Diego State and, arguably, a shot at the MWC regular season title.

Here’s the situation: New Mexico is up by three with 12 seconds left and the ball under their own basket. Their allowed to run the baseline, so Craig Neal calls a play where the inbounder throws the ball to a player running out of bounds.

Totally league as long as the player establishes out of bounds before touching the ball. The referee rules that he doesn’t.

Here’s the video:

The problem?

According to the rules, Xavier Adams — the player receiving the pass from Cullen Neal — only needed one foot on the floor out of bounds in order to establish himself as an inbounder that was able to catch that ball. He got one foot down (see the picture above), but the referees appeared to rule that he needed to have both feet down.

That was incorrect, according to the Mountain West office.

“While this was a very close judgment call made at full speed, it has been determined after careful review of slow-motion video replays the call was in fact incorrect,” the league said in a release. “The New Mexico player did get one foot down (two feet are not required) out-of-bounds before receiving the ball, thus establishing his location in accordance NCAA Basketball Playing Rules 4.23.1.a and 7.1.1.  By rule, the officials were not permitted to go to the monitor during the game to review this play.”

And here’s the kicker: When SDSU got the ball back, they hit a three to send the game into overtime, where the Aztecs won. But if New Mexico had won this game, they’d be sitting at 8-2 in MWC play, one game behind SDSU in the loss column with a return game against them in The Pit.

Instead, they’re now three games back with seven to play, meaning that the race is effectively over.

It’s tough to blame the referees here — it was a bang-bang call that is only clear in slow-motion replay — but man, that’s a big call to miss.