Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Butler Takes Out North Carolina, Opens Eyes

Butler 82, #9 North Carolina 71
North Carolina almost pulled off a remarkable comeback here. Down by 28 with 11 minutes to go they went on a furious 37-15 run to pull within six with a minute to go. But they went cold on a couple of consecutive possessions, and Chase Stigall hit enough free throws to put the game away. The story of Butler's early lead, though, was their ferocious and athletic front line. They were able to out-muscle and out-rebounded North Carolina, and got better shots in the paint. Khyle Marshall was huge, finishing with 10 points and 11 rebounds (he also led all players with three offensive boards).

Games like this are why Butler has such a high ceiling. I thought they were a Top 25 team preseason, but they have the potential to be a Top Ten team. The development of Marshall, Roosevelt Jones and Kameron Woods is the key. By the way, it was interesting to me that with all of the trouble that Butler was having with the UNC press late in this game that Jackson Aldridge could barely get on the floor. He was a point guard who came into Butler with a lot of hype, but right now it's clear that he's in the Brad Stevens dog house. They could use another point guard if he can find his game.

This is a setback for North Carolina, and the high likelihood of having to play Chaminade in the third place game is going to make Maui a disappointment. But the reality is that this is not a bad loss, and it's a good learning experience for their young players. The way that they fought back when this game seemed over was impressive.

North Carolina doesn't get a break after Maui. They will head to Indiana for a game on November 27th. Butler's schedule will ease up after Maui. Their next competitive game will be December 8th, at Northwestern.

USC 59, Texas 53, OT
The Longhorns' offensive futility continued here. They have yet to break 1 PPP on offense in any game this season, and this game was a new low: 0.74 PPP. Their turnover rate has also been above 20% in every single game. This is also the third time in four games that they failed to break 20% on three-point shooting. Losing Myck Kabongo was always going to be tough to overcome, but this is getting embarrassing.

Texas is now 2-2 on the season, but they have zero good wins and a pair of terrible losses (USC is very unlikely to end up an RPI Top 100 team). If they can't beat a bad Mississippi State team in the Maui 7th place game then this season will really get into crisis mode in Austin. They will get a couple of cupcakes when they get back home. Their next competitive game after Maui will be December 4th against Georgetown.

As for USC, this was a very ugly win over a reeling Texas team, but it helps get some of the bad taste out of their mouth after that debacle against Illinois. They will get Marquette in the Maui 5th place game. They'll head home after that to face San Diego State on Sunday.

Columbia 75, Villanova 57
Columbia has been playing well to start this season, but it's still a shock to see them walk onto Villanova's home court and just spank the Wildcats. Villanova's 3-for-17 three-point shooting did them a favor, but that in and of itself wasn't why Villanova lost. The 12 steals Columbia forced stood out more than anything else.

Columbia is not a program with a lot of basketball history. They haven't been to the NCAA Tournament since 1968, and haven't even been close to a postseason appearance for years. Kyle Smith has them moving in the right direction as a program, and they came into this season as an Ivy League dark horse. Back in April it looked like Harvard was destined for another borderline Top 25 season in 2012-13, but the loss of Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry has thrown the top of the Ivy League into total disarray. There is a good chance that the conference won't end up a single RPI Top 100 team, and it's wide open for a team like Columbia to sneak through.

This is a bad loss for a Villanova team that had been looking better to start this season than they had played last season. The loss to Alabama wasn't great, but it was a result of white hot Crimson Tide shooting. And it had come on the heels of nice victories over Purdue and Marshall. But as well as Columbia has been playing, this is a bad loss for Villanova. They'll try to bounce back on Sunday, against La Salle.

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