Marathon Madness

Xavier’s win over Butler raises red flags for the Bulldogs

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Did we all underrate Xavier this year?

Just four days after putting up 117 points on Fairleigh Dickinson, the Musketeers extended a not-so-cordial invite to new conference rival Butler, whipping up on the Bulldogs 62-47.

Travis Taylor and Jeff Robinson combined for 32 points, 17 boards and three blocks and Brad Reford added three big triples as the Muskies made a serious early-season statement. Butler was a favorite in the Atlantic 10 heading into the season, and Chris Mack’s club disposed of them like a week-old three-way from Skyline.

The bigger story here, however, is Butler.

Simply put, the Bulldogs look like they could be in trouble this season. Their offense, at this point in the season, more-or-less consists of the following: Rotnei Clarke brings the ball up, passes the ball to a wing, and he and Kellen Dunham proceed to run off of screen after screen after screen. Sometimes, those screens result in open looks from three. And those threes will drops at a pretty good clip throughout the year, because Clarke and Dunham may be the nation’s best pair of shooters.

The problem is what happens on the rest of Butler’s possessions.

With Chrishawn Hopkins being dismissed, Brad Stevens does not have anyone that can use their dribble to create shots against quicker defenders. If the Atlantic 10 has anything this season, it is a plethora of teams with quick, ball-hawking guards. Butler will be in and win their fair share of games with scorers like Clarke and Dunham on the roster, but what happens on the nights when those two combine to go 7-18 from the floor and 2-10 from three?

Well, I’ll tell ya: Andrew Smith is going to need to score more than nine points on eight shots, Khyle Marshall can’t go just 3-10 from the floor, and Roosevelt Jones is going to need to be closer to the six assists he had on Friday than the five turnovers he had on Tuesday without the benefit of an assist. Losing Hopkins wouldn’t hurt as much if Smith, Marshall and Jones can show more improvement from last season.

Xavier’s better than we expected, that’s for sure. And it’s unfair to completely judge this Butler team off of just two games.

But there are significant that were red flags raised during Tuesday’s loss.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

 

Hawaii shines in early morning win over Houston Baptist

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Big West preseason Player of the Year Vander Joaquim showed why he has NBA potential, as the 6-foot-10 center scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in Hawaii’s 70-63 early Tuesday morning win over Houston Baptist. The junior big-man missed the last five weeks of practice due to a MCL tear he suffered in preseason training in late September, but looked very sharp, showing a wide variety of high post moves and back-to-the-basket skills.

Hawaii enters the Big West Conference after spending the last 33 seasons as members of the Western Athletic Conference. The Warriors were not carried to victory by Joaquim alone. Nebraska-transfer Christian Standhardinger also had a double-double (14 points and 11 rebounds), and showed off the athleticism that will make his a match-up problem for many Big West programs.

This was the third straight appearance in the early-morning Marathon Madness time-slot and was easily their most impressive. Brandon Spearman and Jace Tavita looked poised and polished in the back court,  and Isaac Fotu (Sporting one of the game’s best afros) provided excellent support up front, logging 9 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks.

For the Huskies, this was their first appearance in front of a nationally televised audience  and while they came away with the loss, the young D-I program looks to be headed in the right direction. Senior forward Art Bernardi lead all scorers with 22 points, and the Huskies fought hard until the final whistle, trimming a 20 point deficit to just seven in the last six minutes of the game.

Hawaii is projected to finish fourth in the Big West, but if Joaquim stays healthy and can continue to shot at a high percentage (61% through three games), and if Tavita and Spearman continue to produce out of the backcourt, this is a team that can challenge Long Beach State for the top spot in the conference.

The win earned Hawaii the title of Rainbow Classic champions, having defeated Maryland-Eastern Shore and Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the process. Joaquim was named the tournament’s Most Valuble Player.

(Image courtesy of Warriors Insider)

Lobos outlast feisty Davidson at The Pit

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Environmental factors contributed heavily to New Mexico’s close 86-81 win over Davidson in the graveyard shift game of the Hoops Tip-Off Marathon. Altitude played a big factor, as did a force of nature by the name of Tony Snell.

The rangy 6’7″ Lobo guard displayed his full arsenal of skills in bringing his team back from a 45-31 halftime deficit. Snell, a junior, played all 40 minutes of the game, and did everything his team needed him to do, finishing with 25 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. He did it with volume shooting, hitting just 7-22 from the field, but the “how” of it hardly mattered.

Snell’s heroics eclipsed a strong effort from the visiting Wildcats, who felt every minute of a 2:00 am ET start. The shots that fell in the first half began to go awry in the second, as altitude and sleep deprivation took hold. De’Mon Brooks led the visitors with 22 points, but could not replicate Snell’s Iron Man showing. No Wildcat played more than J.P. Kuhlman’s 31 minutes, but Davidson’s troops looked worn by the end, nonetheless.

Davidson’s future opponents should be forewarned – few places sap the vitality from a team like the Pit can. Your venue’s mileage may vary. Bob McKillop’s team is smart, tough and talented, and they’ll be ready to snatch the SoCon crown by season’s end. The Lobos, on the other hand, must go through both No. 25 San Diego State and No. 18 UNLV to make a living in the highly fluid Mountain West, and they’ll need a consistent showing from Snell and his mates before they can stack that cheddar.

 

Precision attack leads Gonzaga over West Virginia

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Many times throughout the past few years, the Gonzaga Bulldogs have looked like world-beaters on paper, only to devolve into a collection of nice parts that don’t quite mesh consistently.

This season’s Zags, once again favored to win the WCC crown and plunge deep into the postseason, look like something else entirely. Late in a game that would become an 84-50 drubbing of West Virginia, the home team got sloppy for a few moments, giving up a couple of turnovers and easy buckets to the Mountaineers. Enough was clearly enough, as the Zags tightened up their handle, executed a crisp passing game, and showed no quarter to Bob Huggins and his squad.

Mark Few’s team was exceptional from the field, draining 9-16 three-pointers on the way to a 52 percent shooting mark overall. Gary Bell, Jr. led all scorers with 15 points and controlled the ball throughout, dishing four assists to one turnover. Elias Harris, G. Landry Edi and Kevin Pangos also scored in double figures for the Zags.

LaSalle transfer Aaric Murray was the only Mountaineer in double figures, notching 14 in his West Virginia debut.

The Bulldogs once again have one of the most brutal schedules in America, facing three more Big 12 teams in the month of December. They also get down with Clemson, Washington State and Illinois before the new year, and shoehorn Butler into the middle of conference play in January. Nobody will ever accuse Mark Few of overindulging in cupcakes.

Gonzaga showed finesse tonight, sure. But they also showed real defensive toughness and presence of mind against a Bob Huggins-coached team. That’s real currency, even this early in the season.

Marathon Madness begins!!! Join in on the conversation with us!

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To read through all of the Marathon Madness posts, click here.

Marathon Madness is here!

Finally!

And trust me, we have you prepared for the next 24 hours. You need advice on how to make it through all 24 hours? We got you covered. You want to know which games you can power nap through? Yeah, we got that, too.

The first game tonight is West Virginia heading out to Spokane to take on No. 19 Gonzaga, which has the makings to be one of the best games of the entire event. You like talented back court battles? How about Juwan Staten and Jabarie Hinds squaring off with Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell. You want to see athletic front court players go head-to-head? Elias Harris and Sam Dower will do exactly that with Aaric Murray. Are post battles between big, goofy big men your bread and butter? Well, you’ll love seeing Deniz Kilicli and Prmezek Karnowski going at it.

What are you excited to see? Who do you think will win? Will Bob Huggins be sporting a track suit? Join in on the conversation in the comments section.