Villanova v Butler

No. 11 Villanova survives Butler in the Bulldog’s Big East opener

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Hinkle Fieldhouse almost claimed another victim.

No. 11 Villanova did everything they could to give the game away against Butler. They allowed the Bulldogs to erase a second half deficit in the final minutes, tying the game and forcing overtime on a Kellen Dunham jumper with 25 seconds left.

In the extra frame, Villanova took a five point lead but then proceeded to miss five-out-of-six free throws, turn the ball over up one with 19 seconds left and then give up an offensive rebound to Khyle Marshall with just 9.5 seconds left in the game. Butler had a chance to win the game, but they were out of timeouts and couldn’t get the ball inbounds against the Villanova defense.

And that was that.

The Wildcats escaped — yes, escaped is the word to use here — with a 76-73 win in overtime.

What that should tell you, more than anything, is that the Butler team that we all wrote off when Brad Stevens left and Roosevelt Jones injured his wrist is going to be a problem this season.

The Bulldogs probably don’t have enough pieces to make a real push at winning the Big East. But Kellen Dunham has emerged into one of the nation’s best pure scorers. He’s more than just a jump-shooter this season. He’s not averaging 18.5 points this season by accident. Khyle Marshall has gotten better as well, and there’s enough rebounding, scoring and Butler Gumption (patent pending) on the rest of the roster for this group to be a thorn in the side of each and every other Big East member.

Can they make the NCAA tournament?

Well, it’s going to be tough. The Bulldogs didn’t pick up a marquee non-conference win, losing to Oklahoma State and LSU. Villanova is far-and-away the best win that can be earned in league play and Butler just lost to them at home. As competitive as the Big East is going to be this season, I’m not sure how many at-large bids the league will produce.

In other words, Butler is sitting in a hole that’s going to be tough to dig themselves out of.

But that says less about how good this team is than how much they are going to regret losing to Villanova, Oklahoma State and LSU by a combined six points.

Nigel Hayes’ comment on basketball brands hits on greater point

Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes (10) drives on Ohio State's Jae'Sean Tate (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, in Madison, Wis. Hayes had a team-high 21 points in Wisconsin's 79-68 win. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)
AP Photo/Andy Manis
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Much is made about the ball when it comes to how the sport of basketball is played and rightfully so, as the ball is the most important piece of equipment. Different brands have different characteristics, and with college basketball programs being able to pick the ball they use for home games there are adjustments to be made during the season.

Wisconsin will play at No. 2 Maryland Saturday, meaning that in the days leading up to the game the Badgers needed to get used to the Under Armour basketball. The brand became a conversation point in the aftermath of Maryland’s win over No. 4 Iowa last month, with the Hawkeyes (while not blaming the ball for their loss) made note of the differences between the Under Armour ball and the Nike ball they use for their home games.

Thursday Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes offered up his observations on the basketball while also pointing out (albeit sarcastically) the goal of intercollegiate athletics.

“It’s definitely different,” Hayes said. “Personally, we don’t like it too much. I don’t like the Under Armour ball whatsoever. But that’s the way this amateur sports league is set up. We’re supposed to be having fun, but all the money is in these basketballs that colleges play with. But it’s an amateur sport, we’re just here for fun. It’s not really that serious. So I guess any ball should be OK.

“Maybe we should have a universal ball like the NBA. You don’t go to the Clippers’ stadium and play with a Nike and then go to Golden State and play with a Rawlings. But in this amateur sport of college, where money isn’t the goal — it’s the student education and experience that you get — we play with a million different basketballs.”

Hayes makes a good point here, and in regards to the NBA all hell would break loose under similar circumstances (remember the leather vs. microfiber composite controversy in 2006?). If these games are solely about fun and the college experience, wouldn’t having one ball used by all schools better fit that mission? This isn’t the biggest of deals when it comes to “amateur” athletics, as different basketball brands have been used for years.

But Hayes was able to take this situation and work it into the discussion of the goals of intercollegiate athletics. Is it about the experience? Or does the ability to profit, be it through a minor move such as using a particular ball or the more impactful step of moving from one conference to another, take precedence? Given the shifts that have occurred in college sports in recent years, it’s quite apparent that the search for additional revenue streams has won out.

Hayes did note that neither he nor his teammates would make excuses, saying that the team would simple “have to get used to” the unfamiliar basketball according to the Wisconsin State Journal. In the end, this was a good use of sarcasm by Hayes to make a greater point about the collegiate athletics machine he and his teammates are but minor parts of.

Marquette fan sends Providence money for missed free throw

Providence's Kris Dunn reacts to his shot during the first half of an NCAA basketball game against Villanova, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
AP Photo/Chris Szagola
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It goes without saying that sports can inspire some interesting promises, from players and coaches guaranteeing victory to fans making statements that hinge on the outcome of a particular game or play (see: tattoos celebrating a team’s triumphs before they’ve even won the game in question). For one Marquette fan, the need for Providence’s Kris Dunn to miss a free throw during Wednesday night’s game (which Marquette won in overtime) inspired him to make a promise that he intended to keep.

Jamey Schilling took the approach of yelling that he’d pay Dunn $10 if he missed the free throw. Sure enough Dunn missed the shot, and Schilling made good on his promise. But with players themselves unable to receive such funds due to NCAA rules, Schilling sent the check to the Providence athletic department.

Schilling’s gesture did not go unnoticed by Marquette either, as the school sent him a gift card to use in the Marquette Spirit Shop.

H/T For The Win