November 28, 2010
Butler just got Butler'd.
As of now, three weeks into the season, the Evansville Aces are having a better campaign than Brad Stevens' Butler squad.
That's because the 3-2 Aces defeated the 3-2 Bulldogs yesterday. At Hinkle Fieldhouse. A 71-68 overtime win for a team that finished last season 9-21.
It's one of the more eye-popping upsets of the early part of this 2010-11 season, certainly. Evansville, a school located in the same state as Butler (Indiana) plays the Bulldogs every year. This season-making win was the first W the Aces got in Hinkle in 16 years.
It didn't help that Butler was playing without starting junior guard Ronald Nored, who's been out since he got smacked in the head in the team's game against Siena last week.
"They made it hard for us to guard because they went small," Stevens said. "It was really hard for our guys to keep up with them."
Evansville held Butler to one field goal in one seven-minute stretch, erasing a nine-point deficit and forging a 50-47 lead. The Aces led 58-53 with less than four minutes left, but Butler tied it at 61 by making eight free throws before the end of regulation.
Things aren't getting any easier for Butler. Next up is 7-0 Loyola, then Duke in Madison Square Garden for the Jimmy V Classic on Dec. 4. Following that game is a tilt against always-heady Xavier. Having already lost to Louisville, if Butler can't come out of its next three games with a 2-1 record, its bubble profile will already be front and center. You get no rewards for last year's deeds in the NCAAs.
But although Butler had the most surprising loss Saturday, it wasn't the only Midwest team who got upset.
Purdue lost in the Chicago Classic against a game Richmond squad, which has bounced back after an ugly loss last week to Iona. The Spiders got a convincing 65-54 win.
Is Purdue a better team than Richmond? That's actually not entirely clear. The Spiders are expected to make the tournament, just like Purdue, but after the way the Boilers played (scoring just 14 first-half points), maybe it's not justice to Richmond to call this game an upset. After all, this is a 26-win team from last season that also has one of the 10 best guards in the country. Kevin Anderson is that good, folks.
So let's keep an even-closer eye on Purdue, which will have to fight its way through a brutal Big Ten without Robbie Hummel. And we'll keep close watch on Richmond, which can win the Atlantic 10 and capture a better seed than the Boilermakers.
Finally, we'd be remiss if we didn't include Dayton, which, while it wasn't a true upset, was still an upsetting performance. The Flyers traveled down I-75, only to put up 34 points and get doubled-up by Cincinnati, which put 68 on Brian Gregory's team.
Now this is worrisome. Dayton previously showed signs of futility; it managed to beat doesn't-have-a-conference-affiliation Savannah State, one of the worst teams in D-I, by two on Monday. But Cincinnati is a bottom-third-tier team in the Big East. The tryptophan wasn't out of the Flyers' system, it seems.
But with the talent Dayton has, effectively shooting only 22 percent from the field, turning the ball over once every four possessions and failing to score .60 points per possession is unacceptable, especially against Cincinnati, which will likely be playing in the NIT — if it's lucky.
It's been a bad year for point-scoring, evidenced by Purdue's 14 in the first half noted above, and Cal's nearly historically anemic first-half output against Notre Dame Friday. And those aren't the only violators of modern basketball, just the most recent.