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Posts Tagged ‘butler bulldogs’

It’s always fun to look back on predictions and see how they compared to the final results…especially if you were not the one that made the predictions.  I did not put any preseason college basketball predictions in print so instead of looking back at my predictions I will look at the predictions of the Sports Illustrated team.  First, I’ll give credit where it’s due:

Hit the Bullseye

  1. Kansas – SI picked the Jayhawks at #1 and although they did not achieve their ultimate goal they did have a wonderful season that was worthy of the #1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
  2. Michigan St. – Chosen by SI at #2 the Spartans rallied from a challenging season to make the Final Four and had a solid chance to beat Butler.
  3. Kentucky – Maybe dead on, SI picked the Wildcats in the #5 slot. 
  4. Washington – While the Huskies did not have the best regular season, they made a nice mini-run to get to the Sweet Sixteen.  SI picked them at #9.

Hit Below the Bullseye

  1. Butler – SI wasn’t way off on this one – they picked Butler at #14.  Doubtful that anybody would have picked the Bulldogs at #2.  Although they should be picking them there for next season.
  2. Syracuse – The #1 seed and Big East regular season champions were picked at #35 by SI before the season.
  3. Kansas St. – Right below the Orange SI picked the Wildcats at #36.  Kansas St. played their way to a #2 seed in the big dance.
  4. Baylor – The Bears’ excellent season was a surprise to many, including the writers of SI who did not pick them to make the tournament in their college basketball preview.

Overthrew the Target

  1. Texas – Picked #4 by SI the Longhorns were never able to pull all their talent together in a way that resulted in a lot of wins.
  2. North Carolina – Many were surprised by the poor performance of the Tar Heels this season.  SI picked them at #7.
  3. Connecticut – The Huskies played like a group of individuals instead of a team throughout most of the season.  They did not live up to expectations, including those of SI who picked them at #10.
  4. Michigan – I personally expected a lot out of this team coming into the season and so did SI who picked them at #15. 

The team that most outperformed my expectations was Pittsburgh.  I did not expect anything from them but they really had an excellent season built on the foundation of high effort and defense that they’ve been exhibiting for quite some time.  Michigan is the program that most underachieved when compared to my expectations.  With the return of Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims along with the three other starters from the previous season I thought the Wolverines would be really good – they certainly were not.

What teams surprised you most, both positively and negatively?

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Butler’s run to a near NCAA championship raised a lot of eyebrows.  Duke cutting down the nets should have raised just as many.  The 2010 NCAA tournament was crazy.  The sure things – Kansas and Kentucky – did not make it to the Final Four.  High 2 and 3 seeds – Villanova, Georgetown, New Mexico and Pittsburgh – missed out on the Sweet Sixteen.  Two 5 seeds made it to the Final Four.

Get used to this craziness because in my opinion it is going to continue.  The college basketball world is much different now than it was even five years ago.  What has changed?

  1. The One and Done Rule – When the NBA changed their rules to say that a potential draftee had to wait a year after his high school class graduated before entering the draft it changed college basketball in a big way.  Now the 5-10 players who would have entered the draft are going to play for a college team for one year.  Notice I didn’t say “go to college.”  As a result the talent factories, like Kentucky now is, will continue to add top talent but will have very little continuity and even less upper class leadership.  The programs with the most talent will have little experience and the programs with the most experience will have less talent.  This factor levels the playing field.  Duke is by no means the most talented team in the country.  But they had three senior leaders playing huge minutes.  That is why they persevered while the big boys fell and were the ones standing on the ladder when all was said and done.
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  3. Televison Exposure – This has been happening for a while but has exploded even more in the past few years.  ESPNU, ESPN3 (formerly 360), CBS College Sports, Fox Sports, Versus and probably even more cable channels are carrying college basketball in addition to ESPN and ESPN2.  Almost every Division 1 program gets a good amount of TV time.  No longer does a top recruit have to go to a major program and sit behind an upperclassman for a year or two before getting quality playing time.  They can go to a quality mid-major program, get immediate playing time and have a chance at earlier stardom. 
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  5. Coaching – In college basketball the coaches are really the stars.  The players come and go but it’s really the head coach that represents the program.  I believe that the innovation in college basketball coaching is starting to match that of college football.  In the past the head coach would implement their offensive and defensive systems and leave the players to run both.  A new generation of head coaches is taking a different approach.  They are analyzing the matchups and planning accordingly.  I read that Butler coach Brad Stevens has a ridiculous number of plays in the playbook.  This group of coaches is also very smart about recruiting.  They are finding the best fits for their system and going after those players.

So prepare for more unpredictability in the NCAA tournament.  Of course, once the NCAA officially makes the big money grab and expands to 96 teams everything will change again.

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After Duke’s outstanding effort on Saturday night and Butler’s challenges in generating offense it would be easy to look at the two teams and predict a landslide Duke win.  But I believe Butler has a real chance to win the national championship.  Syracuse looked like a lock for the Final Four when they beat Gonzaga.  Then Butler surprised them in the next game.  The same could be said for Kansas St.  Here are the three keys for Butler to pull off the upset:

  1. Rebounding – Before the Final Four game against Michigan St. I pegged rebounding as the key statistic for Butler.  They came through strong, holding their own on the boards and coming out with a 10-6 advantage on offensive rebounds.  They will have to do the same thing tonight.  Duke has been an excellent offensive rebounding team in this tournament.  The Bulldogs must match the Blue Devils’ effort and box out effectively. 
  2. Ronald Nored Must Shut Down Nolan Smith – Nored’s defense has been absolutely key to Butler’s run.  For the most part he has been matched up with, and totally shut down, one of the opposing team’s best players in every tournament game.  Against Duke I think he needs to focus on Smith.  Smith’s ability to shoot from outside, drive the ball for a basket and drive the ball for a kick out is an important piece of Duke’s offense. 
  3. Tempo – To give themselves the best chance to win Butler must limit the total number of possessions.  They need to slow the pace down and spread the Duke defense out.  Then get the ball to Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack and let them work some magic.

While I certainly believe that Butler can beat Duke, I do not think that they will.  Duke’s coaches are too good to let them lose with this group of talent in the national championship game.  I think Duke will be the first team to score more than 60 against Butler in the tournament and win 62-55.

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