Gordon Hayward

Projecting how Butler and VCU will fare in the A-10

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VCU, along with Butler, is headed off to the Atlantic 10 next season.

One of the most intriguing story lines heading into the year is whether or not two of the nation’s best mid-major programs — the last two mid-majors to make the Final Four, when they squared off in 2011 — will be able to handle the transition to a stronger conference.

As VCU Ram Nation determined, Shaka Smart’s boys shouldn’t have an issue:

VCU has gone 15-5 over the past 10 seasons against current A-10 teams, but grabbed the majority of their Ws against cross-town rival Richmond, notching eight of those 15 victories against the Spiders.

The Rams dominated at home but went just 5-3 in true road games during that span. However, one of those victories included a CBI Championship at St. Louis in 2010.

I urge you to go through and look at the research that Mat Shelton and company did, because it is good stuff. It also got me interested in how Butler fared over that same time frame against the current A-10 schools. The answer? 4-4 (scroll to the bottom for the full breakdown).

Four of those games came against Xavier in the past four season, a series that Butler split despite losing the last two games. While the Final Four battle with VCU is clearly the most important game, the most exciting came back in 2009-2010, when Xavier lost to Butler on a buzzer-beating layup from Gordon Hayward. The game ended in controversy, however. The clock stopped in the final seconds, meaning that instead of Xavier having 1.2 seconds to try and win the game, the referees blew the whistle and ended it.

Here is the full breakdown of games:

2011-2012 (0-1)
Xavier 73, BUTLER 61

2010-2011 (1-1)
XAVIER 51, Butler 49
Butler 70, VCU 62 (Final Four)

2009-2010 (1-0)
BUTLER 69, Xavier 68

2008-2009 (1-0)
Butler 74, XAVIER 65

2004-2005 (0-1)
Richmond 69, BUTLER 68

2003-2004 (0-1)
ST. LOUIS 72, Butler 54

2002-2003 (1-0)
BUTLER 68, St. Louis 46

Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins named co-head coach of USA Select national team

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Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins will work with the USA Select Team this summer, after being selected to serve as the co-head coach Monday, The Post-Standard is reporting.

The Select Team features players who were not chosen for the National Team that will compete in the Olympics, and includes former Duke guard Kyrie Irving, former Butler hero Gordon Hayward, and Ivy League standout and Knicks guard Jeremy Lin.

The team will practice against the USA National Team this July in Las Vegas, before the top team moves on to London for the 2012 Olympics.

Hopkins played for Syracuse from 1989-1993, with his best season coming during his senior year, when he averaged 9.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.  He went on to play professionally in Europe and Holland.

He has been with Syracuse since 1995, as a major asset in recruiting, notably credited with developing former Syracuse guard Jason Hart, an NBA veteran and now an assistant at Pepperdine, as well as Jonny Flynn and Gerry McNamara.

The Orange finished 34-3 last season, winning the Big East and advancing to the Elite Eight, where they were eliminated by Ohio State.

The USA Select Team will train with the National Team from July 6-11.

“The USA Select Team was a vital part of the USA Men’s National Team’s training in 2007, 2008 and 2010, and again in 2012 we’ll utilize this team of select NBA players to help get our National Team ready for the very competitive summer that is ahead of us,” USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said in a statement.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Report: Ronald Nored to coach at Gordon Hayward’s high school

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Ronald Nored is expected to be named the head coach of Brownsburg HS (IN) at a press conference tomorrow morning, according to Kyle Neddenriep of the Indianapolis Star.

Nored, who spent the past four years as the heart and soul of the Butler team that made their way to back-to-back national title games, has never hid his desire to become a coach once his playing career ended. He’s been vocal about the fact that he wants to join Brad Stevens’ staff at Butler and even coached an AAU team during the summer.

And while he won’t start out on the Butler staff, Nored will apparently be beginning his coaching career.

It won’t be without expectations, however. Brownsburg, which is a suburb of Indianapolis, won the 2008 Class 4A state title with Butler’s own Gordon Hayward and Miami OH’s Julian Mavunga. Josh Kendrick, the former head coach, stepped down after an 8-14 season.

If there is one thing that I am sure of in this sport, it is that Nored will end up being a big time coach. He is a student of the game and he spent the past four seasons learning from one of the best in the business. If his experience as an AAU coach is any indication — he earned a reputation for getting his players to run plays and play defense while most AAU teams are notorious for playing glorified streetball — the Brownsburg program should be headed in the right direction very soon.

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

Does anyone want to hold out hope for some Butler magic?

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Don’t count Butler out just yet.

With their NCAA hopes hanging by the thread of a Horizon League Tournament championship, Brad Stevens has the Bulldogs marching forward.

Khyle Marshall and Roosevelt Jones each had 17 points and Butler dominated Milwaukee in the second half to get a 71-49 victory and advance to the semifinals of the Horizon League Tournament on Friday night in Valparaiso, Ind.

Butler moves on to play league leader Valparaiso.

Putting aside their 20-13 record and 11-7 mark in conference play, Butler has something that no other mid-major in the country can boast, carrying on in their conference tournament: the experience of two straight trips to the Final Four.

Sure, there’s no Gordon Hayward, Matt Howard, or Shelvin Mack, but Ronald Nored, Andrew Smith, and Marshall carry lessons from experience in a championship environment that makes one pause before dismissing these Bulldogs.

Butler is 0-2 this season against their next opponent, Valparaiso, including a 71-59 defeat on Feb. 24th.

But there must be some who hold out hope.

Isn’t there that magic, that one voice that’s whispering, “Give this team one more chance”?

It will be an uphill battle. Even if they can pull the upset over Valparaiso, they would move on to play the winner of Detroit and Cleveland State, teams that they tallied a 1-3 record against in the regular season.

Brad Stevens will have his guys ready because their postseason hopes ride on it. We’ll see if they have found the end of the road or if this Hoosier magic keeps up.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Roosevelt Jones’ ‘old-school game’ perfect for a Butler guy

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Roosevelt Jones knew he was ideal for the “Butler Way” before the “Butler Way” became a thing at the 2010 Final Four. It shows in his game, too.

The 6-4, 222-pound freshman guard focuses on defense, crashes the boards and is usually more focused on ensuring his teammates are involved, rather than focus on trying to score himself. As Bulldogs coach Brad Stevens told David Woods of the Indianapolis Star, Jones’ style resembles that of a guy like Anthony Mason, a beefy, undersized power forward who was a bit of a throwback.

“That’s what everybody’s been telling me my whole life,” Jones told Woods. “They say I got kind of an old-school game.”

If Jones only shot 3s, he’d be the perfect Butler player. But the Bulldogs will settle for his all-around game, thanks.

Small wonder why Stevens made Jones a starter in early December. He’ll almost certainly stay one the rest of his Butler career, doing all the dirty work so guys like Kellen Dunham and Rotnei Clarke (sharpshooters who will be mainstays next season) can have open shots on the perimeter.

The ideal comparison is to a guy like Willie Veasley, a 6-3, 204-pound guard who was a defensive terror on the Bulldogs’ 2010 Final Four team. Veasley usually took the opponent’s top scorer during that magical March and took them out of the game, ensuring guys like Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack had plenty of room to work on offense.

If Butler (12-9) manages to get hot and make a late-season run and somehow sneaks into this year’s NCAA tournament – winning at Milwaukee tonight would be a huge help – I’m certain Jones won’t be the one scoring all the point or be in the spotlight.

But he’ll almost certainly be foundation for it.

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You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Butler’s future is bright, but there is work to be done to get there

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INDIANAPOLIS – John Calipari is not normal.

That’s not an insult at the man. That’s a compliment. The past two seasons, he’s sent nine players to the NBA Draft, and this year he may have his most talented team since making the jump from Memphis to Lexington.

It’s not supposed to work that way.

College teams aren’t supposed to lose NBA Draft picks every season without seeing some sort of an effect on their record the next season. After UNC won the 2009 national title and sent the likes of Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson to the league, the Heels went 5-11 in the league play before making the Final Four … of the NIT. UConn sent four players to the first round and five, total, to the draft after the 2006 season. They followed that up with a 17-14 campaign.

Butler is learning about the pitfalls of success the hard way this season.

After their seemingly miraculous run to the national title game in 2010, the Bulldogs lost Gordon Hayward to the lottery. Last season, it took them until February to finally figure out how to function without Hayward, but once they put it all together, Butler once again made the national title game. But Shelvin Mack left for the draft after the season and Matt Howard graduated, leaving Butler with a roster that lacked the kind of star power that we had begun to associate with Brad Stevens.

“We obviously lost some guys that could be seniors right now. The bottom line is thats important,” Stevens said after Butler lost 76-69 to Cleveland State on Friday night to drop them two games off the lead in the Horizon League. (A win Sunday against Youngstown State bumped them to 4-3, but still well behind Milwaukee.)

It’s also not an excuse.

When you have success as a coach at the collegiate level, it means that you have good basketball players. And when good coaches coach up good basketball players, early entry to the NBA Draft is always a possibility. The fact that Stevens has been able to turn two unheralded recruits into players good enough to be drafted is just as much a sign of his coaching acumen as Butler’s back-to-back Final Fours.

And Stevens does have some pieces on his roster with the potential to be very good players down the road.

Sophomore forward Khyle Marshall is a dynamic, game-changing athlete that is still learning how to be a basketball player. Sophomore guard Chrishawn Hopkins has all kinds of ability as a scorer and playmaker but hasn’t quite grasped the concept of shot selection or ball protection. Freshman Roosevelt Jones, who looks he should be get 20 carries a game for the school’s football team, will end up being the kind of physical defensive presence that Butler hasn’t had since Willie Veasley graduated. Jackson Aldridge and Kameron Woods also have a bright future.

The one constant with those guys, however, is the future tense. They “will be” this or they “could turn into” that. Potential has little value until it is actually realized.

“Come on, now. Two Final Fours? That was an unbelievable team those two years,” Cleveland State  coach Gary Waters said. “They don’t have [Howard, Mack or Hayward] anymore, so that’s a whole different ball game. However, the intensity and how hard they played was similar. They’re young, you can’t judge their youth right now. They’re going to make some shots and do some things.”

“Brad’s going to get them going. There’s no question in my mind.”

There are two major issues for this Butler team, and I’m not sure how fixable they are.

The biggest problem is Ronald Nored. Let me make this very clear: I love what Nored brings to the table as a player. He’s an outstanding leader, he’s a coach on the floor, he’s one of the best on-ball defenders in the country and he is without a doubt the kind of player that I would take on my team any day of the week.

That said, he’s being forced to play a role that isn’t his strong suit. With Hopkins struggling this year, Stevens has to use Nored in the role of playmaker. Nored is capable of finding assists, but he’s a bit too turnover prone and he doesn’t have the kind of scoring ability that is ideal in a guy who has the ball in his hands at the end of a clock.

The other issue is that Butler has turned into a team that cannot shoot the ball. They are currently hitting just 60.6 percent from the free throw line and 30.3 percent from three. The Bulldogs best three-point shooters this season? 6-11 center Andrew Smith and Nored.

That’s not exactly ideal.

“We’ve shot, talked about and worked on free throws more than we ever have,” Stevens said. “The bottom line is we gotta get over the mental hump of knocking them in and stringing them together. If we miss one we can’t let it affect the next one.”

The future is bright at Butler, as there is plenty of potential for growth. And that growth may not even need to take place next season. If you remember, Butler was 6-5 in the Horizon midway through last season before finally finding the answer and making a run to a share of the regular season title and the Horizon League tournament title.

Stevens, for one, doesn’t believe inexperience is a valid excuse for this group, as he made the point that “the only year that we were really experience heavy was last year.”

That’s fair, and as long as he has the reins of this team, you cannot count out the Bulldogs.

But until they start to show some significant improvement, no one will blame you for putting them on the back burner.

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