Butler Bulldogs

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 25:  Kamar Baldwin #3 of the Butler Bulldogs brings the ball up the cout against the Arizona Wildcats during the championship game of the 2016 Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena on November 25, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Butler won 69-65.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Kamar Baldwin, No. 12 Butler survives No. 15 Xavier at home

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Kamar Baldwin scored a career-high 21 points as No. 12 Butler survived No. 15 Xavier, 83-78, in Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday afternoon.

The Bulldogs were down 31-22 late in the first half, but they took the lead with a 12-0 run to open the second half, pushing the lead to as much as ten points before Xavier rallied.

The game ended in a mild bit of controversy, as Myles Davis appeared to be fouled shooting a three with 3.9 seconds left in the game. Xavier was down 79-76 at the time and Butler was fouling intentionally to keep the Musketeers from attempting a shot that would allow them to tie the game. It looked like the right call on a replay, as Davis was fouled before he shot the ball.

Edmond Sumner led four Musketeers in double-figures with 22 points.

Here are four things we can takeaway from this game:

1. Butler’s tournament profile is awesome: The Bulldogs own wins over four currently-ranked teams already this season. They beat No. 16 Arizona on a neutral court that wasn’t neutral (it was in Las Vegas). They beat No. 3 Villanova, No. 15 Xavier and No. 22 Cincinnati at home. They also have a neutral court win over Indiana and a win at Utah, which wasn’t all that impressive at the time but that will look better and better now that Utah has their full team available.

There are some bad losses – at St. John’s, at Indiana State – and they will certainly help to weigh down Butler’s profile. But if they can manage to protect their home court and sneak a road win against one of Xavier or Villanova, the Bulldogs could very easily end up getting a top three seed on Selection Sunday.

2. Xavier’s isn’t: The Musketeers probably don’t have a win over a tournament team right now, unless you think that Utah or Clemson, who hasn’t done much of anything, either, are tournament teams. That’s not to say that the Musketeers aren’t good – they are, and they will still be in my top 25 on Monday morning – but this is a team that is gong to have to start worrying about where they are going to be seeded on Selection Sunday if they don’t start beating the top teams in the conference.

The good news? Xavier still gets Creighton, Butler and Villanova at home as well as road games against Creighton and Cincinnati. They’ll have enough chances.

3. Kamar Baldwin isn’t just going to be a problem, he is one right now: Is there a quicker player in all of college basketball than Butler’s freshman point guard Kamar Baldwin?

I’m deadly serious when I ask that question, because off the top of my head, I can’t think of one. Baldwin had a career-high 21 points and nine boards on Saturday, making big play and big shot after big play and big shot. He’s the team’s best on-ball defender and a guy that fits seamlessly alongside either Tyler Lewis or Kethan Savage in Butler’s back court. How Butler pulled this dude out of Georgia baffles me, particularly when there are so many SEC program that could desperately use a super-athletic, talented lead guard that can defend and has the, ahem, intestinal fortitude to, as a freshman, take and make clutch shots.

4. Butler’s actual problem is Kelan Martin: Martin has not been good in Big East play this season. He’s averaging just 12.2 points in conference play – he was averaging 18.1 points in non-conference play – and the reason is that he’s apparently forgotten how to shoot. He’s hitting just 32.4 percent from the floor and 23.3 percent (7-for-30) from beyond the arc in six league games.

And Butler is still 4-2 in league play with a win over Villanova.

Not bad.

Team of the Week: Butler Bulldogs

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 04: Head coach Chris Holtmann of the Butler Bulldogs reacts in the first half of the game against the Villanova Wildcats at Hinkle Fieldhouse on January 4, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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No. 18 Butler ensured that the Big East will at least be an interesting conference race for a while longer as they were able to end No. 1 Villanova’s undefeated run and hand them their first loss since last year’s Big East tournament. The Bulldogs followed that up by going into Washington, D.C. and landing an overtime win over Georgetown.

That’s a good week overall, but it’s made better by the fact that Butler didn’t exactly play their best basketball in either game. Kelan Martin, Butler’s star forward, shot a combined 7-for-23 in the two games. Andrew Chrabacsz never looked dominant in either game. Those are Chris Holtmann’s two horses, but the great thing about this Butler team is that they aren’t just a two-man show.

In D.C. it was freshman Kamar Baldwin that showed up, scoring a career-high 16 points. Sophomore Nate Fowler, a 6-foot-11 center that plays limited minutes off the bench, saw most of the crunch time minutes, scoring the last five points of regulation – which included burying a three from the top of the key with a minute left – to force overtime. Against Villanova, fifth-year senior Kethan Savage came off the bench to score a season-high 13 points, including seven in a game-deciding, 11-2 run late in the game.

Butler is a threat this season not only because they have a couple stars on the roster, but because they can beat anyone in the country and win conference road games on nights those stars aren’t playing like stars.

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THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Notre Dame: The Irish landed a couple of key wins over the weekend, knocking off both Clemson and Louisville to remain one of just two undefeated teams left in the league, tied with Florida State for first place in the ACC. Notre Dame has been led by Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell all season long, but it was V.J. Beachem who went off for 22 points in the win over Clemson and Steve Vasturia who had 24 points, and the game-winning floater, to knock off Louisville.
  • North Carolina: After a solid win in overtime at Clemson during the week, the Tar Heels returned to Chapel Hill and humiliated N.C. State. The Wolfpack, riding hight off a 28-point win over Virginia Tech, lost by 51 points. UNC was up 26-4 in the blink of an eye, and it snowballed from there. The Tar Heels not only righted the ship after an ugly start to ACC play, but they beat their bitter rivals like they owed them money. Not a bad weekend.
  • Florida State: It’s time to start taking the Seminoles seriously as ACC contenders. Coming off of a win at Virginia where Dwayne Bacon scored 26 second half points, FSU responded by handling No. 21 Virginia Tech at home without much of an issue on a night where Bacon, Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Jonathan Isaac all had relatively quiet nights.
  • Oregon: The Ducks struggled through the first six weeks of the season as they waited to get Dillon Brooks back to full strength. When he was back, we saw what this group could become, as they ended the undefeated seasons of both UCLA and USC. This past week, however, Brooks was a no-show. He struggled against Washington and was ejected against Washington State six minutes in, but it didn’t matter. Tyler Dorsey scored 28 points on Thursday and Chris Boucher had 29 points on Saturday as the Ducks won a pair of league road games by an average of 23 points.
  • Syracuse: And we all thought the Orange were dead in the water. Syracuse bounced back from a blowout loss at the hands of Boston College with their two best performances of the season, beating Miami by 15 and knocking off Pitt by 11. How? Jim Boeheim has figured out what his best five is and rides that lineup. He’s played just six guys the last two games, and Taurean Thompson has managed just 15 minutes combined.

No. 18 Butler outlasts Georgetown as Hoyas drop to 0-4 in Big East

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 25:  Kamar Baldwin #3 of the Butler Bulldogs brings the ball up the cout against the Arizona Wildcats during the championship game of the 2016 Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena on November 25, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Butler won 69-65.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Freshman Kamar Baldwin scored a career-high 16 points as the No. 18 Bulldogs followed up their upset win over No. 1 Villanova by going into snowy Washington D.C. and knocking off Georgetown in overtime, 85-76.

Kelan Martin added 11 points for the Bulldogs, who are now 14-2 on the season with one of the best profiles in the sport. They beat Indiana. They beat Cincinnati. They beat Arizona in Las Vegas, a neutral site game with a crowd that was anything-but. They won at Utah. They were the first team to beat Villanova since March 12th, 2016.

And while you may not know any of the names on Butler, that’s may be precisely what makes the Bulldogs so good.

Martin was an NBC Sports Midseason All-American, but you wouldn’t know it if you watched the game on Saturday. He was 3-for-12 from the floor and fired up a couple of terrible shots down the stretch, including an airball at the end of regulation. Andrew Chrabacsz, who is probably Butler’s second-best player, wasn’t all that good either, finishing with nine points and four boards on 4-for-10 shooting.

Off-nights from your two best players is not the best way to win road games in league play, but Butler was able to do just that.

Why?

Baldwin, for one. He may be the quickest player in all of college basketball, and he showed it on Saturday, getting his career-high on an array of nifty drives to the rim while knocking down a trio of threes. That’s a nice third option to have. It’s also nice have a guy like Kethan Savage on the roster, a fifth-year senior that battled an illness at the started of the year but entered Saturday averaging 11.0 points in Big East play; he had 13 points, including seven in a late 11-2 run, when Butler knocked off Villanova, and scored six of his 11 points on Saturday in the extra period.

And then there’s Nate Fowler, a sophomore big man that entered Saturday averaging just 11.6 minutes per game. Against the Hoyas, Fowler not only played the crunch time minutes, but he scored Butler’s last five points in regulation and scored on a putback to give the Bulldogs a 76-70 lead with just over a minute to play in OT.

Put all of that together, and what you get is this Butler team.

They have a star that can carry them, that can win a game on his own, in Martin. Ask Indiana, who watched Martin score 28 points against them despite going scoreless for the first 15 minutes. They have an all-conference caliber secondary option in Chrabacsz. And they have a trio of role players that have proven to have the mettle to win league games for them on the road.

That’s tough.

Jagan Mosely scored a career-high 20 points for the Hoyas, while L.J. Peak added 22 points and Marcus Derrickson chipped in with 14, but it wasn’t enough the Hoyas, who entered the afternoon 8-7 on the season after their first 0-3 start in the Big East since 1999. That was the final year of John Thompson II’s tenure with the Hoyas, which is ironic considering the current angst among Hoya fans with the Thompson regime. Georgetown now does not have a Big East win over a team not named St. John’s or DePaul since Jan. 26th of last season, which was 14 games ago.

This win would have done quite a bit to ease the pressure weighing on this program, because despite being a team that is sitting at .500 on the season, Georgetown is more relevant in the NCAA tournament picture than people may realize. Yes, the Hoyas lost at home to Arkansas State, which isn’t quite as bad as that team’s league affiliation may have you believe. And yes, they lost at Providence and at Marquette to start off Big East play, but road games in conference are never going to be a black mark on anyone’s résumé.

Put another way, Georgetown’s current profile is not good.

But it’s salvageable. That win they have over Oregon? It’s only going to look better and better as the season goes on, and the good thing about being in a league as tough as the Big East is that, in theory, there would be plenty of quality wins available. The Hoyas missed on two of them now, but they still have six games left against Villanova, Butler, Creighton and Xavier. And they still have four games left against St. John’s and DePaul. Three of the four games they play against Providence, Marquette and Seton Hall are at home.

It’s not impossible.

It’s not over yet.

But if they don’t get things turned around soon, it will be the third time in the last four seasons that JT III has missed the NCAA tournament.

No. 18 Butler hands No. 1 Villanova their first loss of the season

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 04: Head coach Chris Holtmann of the Butler Bulldogs reacts in the first half of the game against the Villanova Wildcats at Hinkle Fieldhouse on January 4, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Andrew Chrabacsz had 13 points and seven boards to lead No. 18 Butler and Kethan Savage added 13 huge points off the bench before fouling out as the Bulldogs upset No. 1 Villanova, 66-58, on Wednesday night.

The loss is Villanova’s first of the season. Jalen Brunson scored 23 points to lead the way for the Wildcats, but the NBC Sports midseason Player of the Year, Josh Hart, played an unusually poor game.

Here are four things to know after Butler’s win:

1. This was a huge win for Butler’s tournament profile: It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that Butler was able to knock off Villanova in Hinkle Fieldhouse. And it shouldn’t be a surprise to you that Butler is a good basketball team. The Bulldogs are ranked in the top 20. They opened as 4.5 point favorites against the No. 1 and undefeated Wildcats. KenPom projected the final score to be 70-69. Playing in front of 9,100 riled up Bulldog fans in Hinkle, these two teams are, essentially, equals.

A loss wouldn’t have changed that, especially if it was a close loss.

A win really doesn’t, either. Villanova is still a national title contender. Butler is still a team that can win a game like this at home and lose to a team like St. John’s on the road. What this win does do, however, is gives the Wildcats something to hang their tournament résumé on, and I say that knowing just how impressive Butler’s profile already is. They won at Utah. They won a neutral court game against Arizona in Vegas, which means it wasn’t really all that neutral. They beat Indiana on a neutral. They beat Cincinnati. Their win over Northwestern keeps looking better and better.

And now they have a win over a team that will be, at worst, in the top ten of all metrics come Selection Sunday.

That’s big.

2. This is good news for everyone in the Big East: Because it means that the league title race isn’t quite over yet. There is only going to be one more game during Big East play where Villanova will enter as an underdog – at Xavier – and I’m not convinced they won’t be favored in that game by the time that lines close. Put another way, a win against Butler would mean that Villanova would be 3-0 in the league with victories in two of the three toughest games they are going to play.

Villanova is still the heavy favorite to win their fourth-straight regular season title. This is just their seventh conference loss since Josh Hart, a senior, enrolled in school. They hadn’t lost since March 12th, 2016, and hadn’t lost a regular season game since Feb. 24th. This win for Butler means that door is just a little bit more open for the Bulldogs, as well as Creighton and Xavier.

3. Kethan Savage made big plays down the stretch: Savage is a transfer from George Washington. A 6-foot-4, athletic combo-guard, Savage was a double-figure scorer for the Colonials, but he missed the first four games of the season and struggled to find his way into the rotation in non-conference play due to a mystery illness; could’ve been mold, could’ve been pneumonia, the doctors didn’t really seem to know.

But Savage is back now. He scored 10 points in each of the first two Big East games, and followed that up with 13 points in 21 minutes against Villanova. He scored three critical baskets late in the game, providing the spark that led to a game-changing, 11-2 run that put Butler up 58-52 with two minutes left. Butler doesn’t really have another guy like him – a big, athletic slasher that can create off the bounce – and his addition certainly changes their look for the better.

4. Does Villanova need a third option?: Jalen Brunson’s scoreline is going to look impressive – he finished with 23 points, but he didn’t play nearly as well as he did against Creighton. Josh Hart made a couple shots late, but he was, overall, not himself. He finished with 13 points, eight boards and three assists, but he was just 3-for-11 from the floor, battled foul trouble for most of the second half and committed an incredibly costly turnover in the final minute.

It seemed, at times, that Villanova’s offense would get bogged down. Much of that credit goes to Butler, who played well defensively, but it was a bit concerning that Villanova didn’t seem to have an answer down the stretch. Maybe I’m just making too much of this, and maybe it should be a good sign that Villanova could have those issues and still play a winnable game at Butler, but it’s something I’ll be monitoring moving forward.

 

Chrabascz provides energy as No. 13 Butler beats Vermont

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 21:  Andrew Chrabascz #45 of the Butler Bulldogs attempts a shot over Josh Hearlihy #1 of the Vermont Catamounts in the second half at Hinkle Fieldhouse on December 21, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Coach Chris Holtmann expected more from No. 13 Butler on Wednesday night.

The crisp passes and fluid offense he witnessed in the Bulldogs’ previous two games were missing. Their usually devastating 3-point barrage was off the mark, and the energy was lacking. At halftime, Holtmann made it clear what needed to be done and the Bulldogs responded.

Andrew Chrabascz scored a season-high 28 points and Butler shot 69.6 percent from the field in the second half to pull away from Vermont, 81-69.

“We got exposed in some areas that are real concerns, that we’re going to need to shore up before we get into Big East play,” Holtmann said after earning his 100th career win, 56 of those since taking over at Butler three seasons ago. “I think they out-toughed us in a lot of ways, physically and that’s a concern. That’s a real concern.”

With three straight wins and a 36-game home winning streak over non-conference foes, Holtmann couldn’t complain about the result.

But with this being the only game on the schedule between Saturday’s upset of then-No. 9 Indiana and the start of conference play next week, Holtmann wanted to see a much stronger 40-minute effort.

Other than Chrabascz, who was 12 of 18 from the field, and Kelan Martin, who had 21 points and eight rebounds, the Bulldogs didn’t have another real scoring threat.

Holtmann also didn’t like seeing Vermont (8-5) score 34 points in the paint and play to a 32-32 rebounding draw. While that was good enough Wednesday, it won’t be soon.

“I think we know what’s coming,” Holtmann said.

Drew Urquhart and Trae Bell-Haynes scored 14 points each to lead the Catamounts, who took advantage of Butler’s sluggish start to keep the score close most of the first half.

Chrabascz changed everything with a 3-pointer in the middle of a 7-0 run. Butler followed that with another 6-0 flurry that pushed the led to 38-24 with 1:30 left in the half, and Vermont couldn’t got closer than eight the rest of the game.

“You’ve got to play almost flawless to beat this Butler team. They don’t beat themselves,” Vermont coach John Becker said. “We were close but not quite good enough yet.”

BIG PICTURE

Vermont: This team is built around defense, and there’s little doubt the Catamounts can shut down teams. To take that next step and beat tougher opponents, though, Vermont must play more consistent offensively – something they struggled with as leading scorer Payton Henson sat out with a knee injury. Becker said Henson could miss up to a month.

Butler: For the second straight season, the Bulldogs head into conference play with an 11-1 record. But this year’s resume looks a little stronger. They’re 3-0 against ranked teams, 2-0 against the top 10 and added a win over the preseason favorite to win the America East Conference.

BACK HOME AGAIN

Former Indiana All-Star Josh Speidel was one of four Vermont players appearing in their home state. The group was comprised of Ernie and Everett Duncan, who played prep ball in Evansville, and senior guard Dre Wills, who grew up in Indy.

But it was Speidel, the freshman forward who sat on the bench dressed in street clothes and with his trademark bow tie, who had the starring role. He continues to rehab from a traumatic brain injury he suffered as the result of as serious car crash during his senior season at Columbus North High School. Butler’s fans gave Speidel a loud ovation during a special pregame introduction.

“There’s no place like home,” Speidel said.

TAKING A BREAK

The loudest ovation of the night came during a media timeout in the first half when an image of former coach Brad Stevens and former assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry appeared on the video board at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Stevens and Shrewsberry both work now for the Boston Celtics, who are in town to play the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night.

UP NEXT

Vermont: Will take an eight-day break before heading to Siena on Dec. 29.

Butler: Opens Big East play Dec. 29 at St. John’s.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25 .

Team of the Week: Butler Bulldogs

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 17:  Kelan Martin #30 of the Butler Bulldogs dribbles the ball during the 83-78 win over the Indiana Hoosiers during the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on December 17, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Butler put together a fairly dominating performance on Saturday, beating No. 9 Indiana 83-78 in a game they lead by 14 at halftime. Kelan Martin led the way with 28 points for the Bulldogs, who suddenly look like a team that we need to talk about at the top of the Big East this season.

They’re one of just two teams this season to beat the Hoosiers, who own wins over top ten teams North Carolina and Kansas. They’re one of just two teams to beat Arizona this season. They’ve beaten Cincinnati. They’ve beaten Vanderbilt and Northwestern. They won at Utah. Their lone loss on the season came on the road to an in-state rival that will likely finish in the top four of one of the best mid-major leagues in the country.

They have a star in Martin. They have a pair of talented point guards, Tyler Lewis and Kamar Baldwin, who compliment each other so well. Andrew Chrabacsz and Tyler Wideman makeup an underrated front court. Chris Holtmann has proven to be one of the best young coaches in the game.

Look, I don’t think anyone believes Butler is going to win the Big East barring some kind of season-altering injury to Villanova.

But is there really any reason to believe that the Bulldogs can’t finish second in the Big East?

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THEY WERE GOOD TOO

  • Purdue: The Boilermakers came back from 17 points down in the first half to knock off Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic on Saturday. Caleb Swanigan was the star, but credit has to be given to Vince Edwards as well. He played his best basketball of the season, finishing with 20 points and 10 boards.
  • Arizona: Give Sean Miller and Arizona credit. This team, with Ray Smith done for the year, Parker Jackson-Cartwright injured and Allonzo Trier out, just keeps winning. On Saturday, they handed Texas A&M a loss in Houston in the Lone Star Shootout, and while Lauri Markkanen, Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins all have continued to improve this season, it was Dusan Ristic who was the star on Saturday.
  • Seton Hall: The Pirates landed a key win in their push to get a bid to the NCAA tournament by handing South Carolina their first loss of the season. The Pirates may be without Isaiah Whitehead this season, but they still have a roster full of scrappy, athletic veterans that are not going to back down from anyone. I don’t know if anyone plays as hard as Angel Delgado.
  • Oklahoma State: The Cowboys picked up their biggest win of the season on Saturday, as they went into Wichita and knocked off the Shockers in a dominating performance. Brad Underwood has had this group playing better this season, but this was really the first time that the Pokes have landed a resulted that backs that up.
  • Northwestern: Is this going to be the year that the Wildcats finally make it to the NCAA tournament? They still have a ton of work left to do, but the job got a little bit easier on Saturday as Northwestern knocked off Dayton in the United Center in Chicago. Chris Collins has that team sitting at 9-2 on the season, with the losses coming by a total of six points against Butler and Notre Dame. They’ve beaten Texas, DePaul and Wake Forest already this year, but Dayton has a chance to be a top 25 win come Selection Sunday.