Butler looked really good in their trip to the Old Spice Classic this week.
The Bulldogs were expected to fall off this season, which is what happens when you lose the likes of Rotnei Clarke, Andrew Smith and some guy named Brad Stevens, but they looked nothing like a pushover in a win over Washington State and two point losses to No. 5 Oklahoma State and LSU in overtime.
At the very least, Brandon Miller’s team looks like they will be competitive in the Big East. I don’t think it’s crazy to say that Butler looked like an NCAA tournament team. They played that well.
But they lost, blowing two chances at notching a quality non-conference. That’s a problem, because there really aren’t that many other good wins on their schedule. North Dakota isn’t bad, but they aren’t even the best team in the Big Sky. Purdue is a Big Ten team, but they aren’t going to finish in the top half of that league.
And that’s it.
The good news for Butler is that they play in the Big East this season which means that they’ll have chances to build up their resume in conference play. But coming up short against both the Cowboys and the Tigers means that Butler is going to have that much more work to do if they want to get a bid.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.
For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the NBCSports.com Preseason National Player of the Year.
On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.
Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.
Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.
In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.
As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.
(More to come from Chapel Hill…)
North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.
(H/T: The Cauldron)