ACC/Big Ten Challenge Predictions

This year’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge looks to result in some memorable games.  Below are the match ups listed for each game.  The team that is italicized is who I predict to win each of the match ups.

Monday, November 26th

Minnesota at Boston College

Nebraska at Clemson

Tuesday, November 27th

Indiana at Duke

Michigan State at Louisville

NC State at Wisconsin

Illinois at Notre Dame

Pittsburgh at Iowa

Virginia Tech at Penn State

Wednesday, November 28th

Purdue at Florida State

Georgia Tech at Northwestern

Rutgers at Miami

North Carolina at Michigan

Syracuse at Ohio State

Virginia at Maryland

Prediction: ACC beats Big Ten 9-5

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NCAA Bracket Prediction – Thanksgiving Edition

I hope to provide a little easy reading  to your Thanksgiving Day!  I’ve updated my field of 68 as well as introduced my Top 25 and 5.  I share what my top 25 college basketball teams are at this date and include the next 5 that are knocking on the door to take another team’s spot.  You can find my blog along with numerous others at The Bracket Project

NCAA Field Projection – November 22, 2018

The 1s: Kansas, Virginia, Gonzaga, Duke

The 2s: Nevada, North Carolina, Auburn, Tennessee

The 3s: Michigan, Florida State, Syracuse, Michigan State

The 4s: Kansas State, Oregon, Kentucky, Villanova

The 5s: Indiana, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Clemson

The 6s: Purdue, Mississippi State, TCU, Buffalo

The 7s: Wisconsin, West Virginia, UCLA, Florida

The 8s: Marquette, Cincinnati, LSU, Texas

The 9s: St. John’s, Miami FL, Texas Tech, Maryland

The 10s: Butler, Washington, Xavier, NC State

The 11s: Iowa State, Georgetown, Central Florida, Arizona, Houston, USC

The 12s: Saint Louis, Western Kentucky, Loyola – Chicago, South Dakota State

The 13s: Belmont, Southern Illinois, Vermont, Penn

The 14s: South Dakota State, Northeastern, New Mexico State, Montana

The 15s: Lipscomb, Rider, Georgia State, Northern Kentucky

The 16s: Radford, Lehigh, St. Francis (PA), Stephen F. Austin, Bethune-Cookman, Grambling State

 

Top 25 and 5

  1. Duke
  2. Kansas
  3. Virginia
  4. Gonzaga
  5. Tennessee
  6. Nevada
  7. North Carolina
  8. Villanova
  9. Auburn
  10. Kentucky
  11. Michigan State
  12. Kansas State
  13. Oregon
  14. Florida State
  15. Syracuse
  16. Virginia Tech
  17. Mississippi State
  18. Michigan
  19. Clemson
  20. UCLA
  21. TCU
  22. LSU
  23. Purdue
  24. Marquette
  25. Buffalo
  26. West Virginia
  27. Indiana
  28. Ohio State
  29. Wisconsin
  30. Washington

Butler Basketball 2018-2019 Season Preview – Part II

The benefit of watching a few games and perusing box scores allows me to better understand the make up of Butler’s opponents.  When developing projections of what to look for game to game or share a prediction, it’s easier with a larger sample size.  For example, prior to Mississippi visiting Hinkle Fieldhouse, their team had only played one game.  At that point, the Rebels led the nation in turnovers forced, about one in five trips down the floor would end in a turnover for the opposing offense.  That game was against Western Michigan, a team that coughs up the ball nearly one in four trips down the floor when they are on offense.  As teams play more games, the averages begin to show themselves and projecting results can become easier to justify.

During their first three games of the season, the Butler Bulldogs have shown moments of brilliance and head-scratching plays that make you wonder “What is going on?”

Brief Recap

Bulldog fans have witnessed the growth center, Joey Brunk.  The Bulldogs created opportunities to score points off turnovers.  The ever compelling idea that head coach LaVall Jordan mentioned about playing at a quicker tempo eludes the Bulldogs from time to time, however.  According to Kenpom.com, Butler plays below the national average pace, holding onto the ball longer than 66% of the body of college basketball teams.

Game 4:  Dayton, 2017-2018 Record: 14-17; series record Butler leads 11-10 Last meeting: March 14, 2013.

Current Kenpom Rating: 102

The Dayton Flyers look to rebound from an uneven season last year.  Anthony Grant leads a Dayton squad that returns four of their top five scorers from last season.

Players to Watch

Senior Josh Cunningham will be a significant influence for the Flyers as he was one of the most effective shooters in the country last year, ranking fifth in field goal percentage while averaging over 15 points and 8 rebounds per game.

Other key returners that will provide significant impact for the Flyers are junior Trey Landers, and sophomores Jalen Crutcher and Jordan Davis.  These three compliment Josh Cunningham well and will spread the floor.  These three have played significant time in each of their first three games this season.  Josh Cunningham has only played in one game.

One other player to mention is Ryan Mikesell.  He’s been effective in his shooting in the small sample size of this season.  Mikesell is 50% from 3-point range and has been to the free throw line frequently.

Expected Result:

Although we are still early in the season, we begin to see trends for teams.  Dayton looks like their group has a decent defense to go with an average offense.  Butler looks like the opposite, having a decent offense along with an okay defense.

Dayton is shooting just over 60 percent on 2-point shots compared to 29% on 3-point shots.  Basing game prep off of these numbers, look for Dayton to work the ball inside for layups or to draw fouls.  A closer look at Butler’s 3-point defense causes concern, however, even against a Dayton team that currently shoots below 30% from beyond the arc.  Butler is allowing nearly 39% shooting against opponents from 3-point range.  The Bulldogs will continue to improve in this area and the number should decline, but that remains an area for concern on the defensive end.

When comparing second chances, Dayton does not allow many opportunities for opponents to grab offensive rebounds.  Even though they protect their own rim well from second chance opportunities, the Flyers struggle in their own right to grab offensive boards.

For Butler to win, they will need to pack the paint and force Dayton to make shots from beyond 15 feet.  From a fan’s perspective, limiting unnecessary turnovers, the cross-court passes, is a desire to see growth in.  Patience and maturity is required for that in addition to the coaching staff holding the players accountable.

Prediction:  I think Butler gets off to a slow start but wins this game by single digits.  I think the Dawgs win 76-68 and meet Virginia in the semi-final round.

Game 7: Saint Louis, 2017-2018 Record: 17-16; series record St. Louis leads 12-18 Last meeting: December 2, 2017, Butler 75 – St. Louis 45

Kenpom Rating: 74

Background:

Remember last year’s drubbing of the Billikens inside a warm, cozy Hinkle Fieldhouse?  File that fond memory away for now.  Saint Louis has an impressive and formidable team this year.  They did last year too, but last year’s result was the product of unfortunate timing.  With transfers eligible to play and a healthy group, the Billikens are an expected favorite to finish atop the Atlantic 10 Conference and make the NCAA tournament.  Depending on match ups come March, this may be a team you pick through to the Sweet Sixteen.  St. Louis currently sits at 4-1, beating Seton Hall by two on the Pirate’s home floor and recently losing to Pittsburgh today at the Barclay Center by 2 points.

Players to watch:

Jordan Goodwin is a great distributor of the basketball and sets his teammates up for easy buckets.  He draws fouls and gets numerous trips to the free throw line, along with Tramaine Isabell.  Both of them are tough and will fight through contact to get to the basket.

               Javon Bess rarely leaves the game and averages about four 3-point attempts per game.  Though he’s second on the team in 3-point attempts this season, Bess is shooting at 33% from beyond the arc.

               Finally, freshman big man, Carte’Are Gordon is the Billikens shot blocker and interior post.  His matchup with both Nate Fowler and Joey Brunk will be interesting to follow.  The Bulldog big men will be smart to utilize pump fakes while on the low block to encourage Gordon into going for blocks and hope they turn into fouls.

Expected Outcome:

The Billikens play at a slow pace, ranking outside the top 300 in their tempo.  That can be attributed to their desire to find an efficient shot like a layup.  St. Louis scores over half of their points on 2-point baskets.  Although the Billikens do a great job attacking the basketball and drawing fouls, they lack in their free throw percentage.  At the current date of this write up, St. Louis is shooting an abysmal 60% from the free throw line.  That’s not the only weak shooting percentage the Billikens own.  Just as their A-10 rival Dayton had a poor 3-point shooting percentage, St. Louis shoots from beyond the arc at a clip of 28%.

As far as match ups go, playing a team on their home court is tough.  The Billikens have a stout defense.  Butler will do well to share the ball in this game and not rely heavily on dancing around a big at the top of the key.  Drawing fouls will allow Butler, an effective free throw shooting team, opportunities to score where they have shown areas of struggle in the early portion of the season (namely 3-point shooting).

Result:  I think the Bulldogs squeak out a close win at St. Louis, 66-62.

Early Season Basketball Tournaments

As fans, we were treated to a terrific opening few days of college basketball.  The unexpected upsets of Baylor and Wichita State to the obliteration that Duke laid on Kentucky made for one of the most memorable opening days of college basketball.  That was followed up by exciting games played throughout the week like Buffalo going on the road to West Virginia and winning in overtime.  The loss the Mountaineers incurred was the first home opening loss since the 1989 season.

The growth of early season tournaments in college basketball has rocketed in the past decade.  In quick succession of beginning the season, teams have only played a few games before they ship off to various destinations to compete in early season basketball tournaments.   It seems that this time of year has now becoming saturated with an outlandish number of tournaments.  In this write up, attention will be given to tournaments that have more at stake for the participating teams.  Tournaments where teams that are likely to make the NCAA tournament or those that I anticipate to be on the bubble will be discussed below.

Listed below are just a few of bracketed early season tournaments.  There are an equal amount of non-bracketed early season tournaments as well.  As far as previewing the tournaments, I have mentioned the dates games are played and the location.  For a majority of the tournaments, agreements were made that some teams participating will visit schools that are actually traveling to the tournament site.  Therefore, I have not listed every team that is participating in the actual tournament, only the teams that are traveling to the tournament site.

I look at potential match ups, likely results, and dark horses to win each tournament below.  You will also see a link you may click on that will take you directly to the tournament bracket.

Gildan Charleston Classic

Thurs-Friday and Sunday, Nov. 15-16 and 18 in Charleston, South Carolina. Bracket

Teams participating: Alabama, Appalachian State, Ball State, Davidson, Northeastern, Purdue, Virginia Tech, Wichita State.

As far as quarterfinal games that are of interest, the Alabama/Northeastern final may be a surprise.  Northeastern has a solid squad.  Their season opening loss at home to Boston University does raise some question marks.

Virginia Tech should handle a Ball State team that may surprise some people in the Mid American Conference this year.  The Hokies match up well against both Alabama and Northeastern and I see them moving onto the final against Purdue.

The possible match up between Purdue and Wichita State in the semifinals could be interesting.  However, with the way Wichita State has started the year, I will be surprised if they hang around with Purdue.

Ultimately, the Boilermakers have more play-makers than Virginia Tech does, and with Carsen Edwards leading Purdue, it will be a tough ask to slow him and his supporting offensive cast down.

Favorite to win: Purdue

Dark Horse: Northeastern

U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam

Friday – Monday, November 16-19 in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands  Bracket

Teams Participating: Eastern Kentucky, Kansas State, Kennesaw State, Missouri, Old Dominion, Oregon State, Penn, Northern Iowa

There is a clear favorite in this field and it is Kansas State.  Missouri and Old Dominion are the two teams that could challenge Kansas State, but I think that those two teams are a tier below.  Northern Iowa is in a down year, and the likes of Eastern Kentucky, Kennesaw State, Penn, and Oregon State are weak teams.

I think a semi final game between Old Dominion and Missouri would turn out to be a close game with the winner advancing to the final against Kansas State.

Favorite to win: Kansas State

Dark horse to win: Old Dominion

Cayman Islands Classic

Monday-Wednesday, November 19-21 George Town, Grand Cayman  Bracket

Teams Participating: Akron, Boise State, Clemson, Creighton, Georgia, Georgia State, Illinois State, St. Bonaventure

The two teams that are favorites heading into this tournament are Clemson and Creighton.  I anticipate both teams meeting each other in the winners bracket final.  There are a couple opportunities for Clemson or Creighton to slip up to their competition though.  If Clemson meets Illinois State in the semifinal, the Redbirds have a good chance of beating Clemson.  Likewise, Georgia State may sneak up on Creighton depending on how well the Panthers prepare for that game.  (It also means they beat St. Bonaventure).  Creighton shouldn’t struggle against either team due to their length and pace of play.

Favorite to win: Clemson

Dark horse: Illinois State

Maui Invitational

Monday-Wednesday, November 19-21 in Lahaina, Hawaii   Bracket

Teams Participating: Arizona, Auburn, Duke, Gonzaga, Illinois, Iowa State, South Dakota State, Xavier

This should turn out to be an exciting few days of games.  In fact, regardless of who wins or loses games, every match up should be entertaining.  We’ll get a great look at what the Xavier Musketeers look like during this three day stretch.  Their opening game against Auburn will be a great test.  The winner of that game will likely play Duke in the semi-final.

Duke has demonstrated their value after their throttling of Kentucky on opening night.  Their semifinal opponent, whomever they play, will want to keep the game close.  That’s really all they can do at this point until trends develop in what coaches can find in Duke to attack their weak areas.

I think Gonzaga has an easy time with Illinois and meets Iowa State in the semi-final after the cyclones take care of a fumbling Arizona squad.

Duke shouldn’t struggle with either Xavier nor Auburn.  One of Duke’s strengths is their uncanny ability to finish in transition.  It will be unwise for either opponent to try and up their tempo.  I think Duke moves on to meet Gonzaga in the final.  Gonzaga, at least for mid-west and east coast college basketball fans, quietly put together another strong squad worthy of being ranked in the top 10.  Mark Few prepares his teams well for each opponent.  I think if Gonzaga and Duke play in the final, Gonzaga will give Duke more of a challenge for the full 40 minutes.

Favorite to win: Duke

Dark horse: Auburn

Battle 4 Atlantis

Wednesday-Friday, November 21-23 in Paradise Island Bahamas    Bracket

Teams Participating: Butler, Dayton, Florida, Middle Tennessee, Oklahoma, Stanford, Virginia, Wisconsin

The first game between Florida and Oklahoma looks to be closer than anticipated prior to the season beginning.  I mention that because of the drubbing Florida State put on Florida.  The Gators are comprised of a talented group of players, but they looked lost against Florida State.  If Oklahoma keeps the game close, they’ll likely face Wisconsin in the semi-final.

The Wisconsin Badgers will tip off against Stanford in the second quarterfinal of the day.  The Badgers look to Ethan Happ as their leader with strong offensive and defensive play this season.  They shouldn’t struggle with a weaker Stanford team.

Butler and Dayton square off in the first evening quarterfinal game.  Dayton had an up and down year last year, not winning nor losing more than two consecutive games in a row.  With LaVall Jordan at the helm of a Butler Bulldogs squad that looks to continue their success from last year, this will be an interesting game.

In the last quarterfinal of the day Virginia and Middle Tennessee will play what should be a decided outcome by halftime.  Virginia seems to be in midseason form already with allowing few points, yet not putting many points up themselves.  I see Virginia moving on to play Butler.

In the first semi final game of the winners side of the bracket, I think Wisconsin has a more put-together team at the moment which sees them advance to the final.

In the second semi final game on the winners side, I think Virginia moves on.  Butler’s experience with their coach and on court savvy to attack the zone defense is too much to overcome.  It will be a learning experience that they can take advantage of.  If they do win, it will be because they made a large percentage of the 3-pointers they shot and they didn’t settle for long 2-point jump shots.

I think Oklahoma beats Stanford in the semi final on the losers side of the bracket, and Dayton beats Middle Tennessee State.

Finally, I think Stanford leaves without a win and loses to MTSU and Dayton beats Oklahoma.

I believe the overall winner will be Virginia after a close game with Wisconsin.  Tony Bennett has developed a system that works so well with the players he recruits that he will consistently have a high winning percentage every season.

Favorite to win: Virginia

Dark horse to win: Wisconsin

NIT Season Tip-Off

Wednesday and Friday, November 21 and 23, in Brooklyn, New York    Bracket

Teams Participating: Kansas, Louisville, Marquette, Tennessee

The match up between Louisville and Tennessee should be great.  With Louisville still feeling the after effects of the FBI probe, recent sanctions, and introduction of new head coach, Chris Mack, it’s amazing to think that the Cardinals can still compete.  This will be a “down year” relatively speaking, but they will play teams tough during the entirety of the game.  I think Tennessee wins by single digits.

In the second game, Kansas is heavily favored to beat Marquette.  The Jayhawks will give Marquette trouble with their height, length, and their guard play.  However, Marquette is set to have one of their most successful seasons in years.  If the Golden Eagles are hitting their threes, win the rebounding battle, and play the transition game well, I think they will play Tennessee in the final.  That isn’t likely so I have Kansas moving on.

Favorite to win: Kansas

Dark horse to win: Marquette

Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational

Thursday and Friday, November 22-23 in Las Vegas, Nevada    Dates and Game Times

Teams Participating: Michigan State, North Carolina, Texas, UCLA

I couldn’t locate a bracket, but did find game times.  UNC and Texas will play in the first game followed by UCLA and Michigan State.  Winners of both games will play each other.  Losers will play against each other.  Michigan State showed some resolve against a deep Kansas team during their Champions Classic game.  Indy native, Kris Wilkes has put up impressive numbers for the Bruins.  I think that the Tom Izzo led Spartans triumph and take on North Carolina in the second game.

Texas saw a wonderful story unfold in seeing Andrew Jones return to the court after being diagnosed with and then beating leukemia.  Shaka Smart needs results as the coach of the Longhorns.  He’s muddled in the Big12 Conference the past few years.  I don’t see him beating North Carolina in their first game, however.  Texas is likely to depart Las Vegas with two losses.

In the championship, I expect a close game, one that the Tar Heels eventually win by single digits.  The key for the Spartans is to remain out of foul trouble.

Favorite to win: North Carolina

Dark Horse: UCLA

Field of 68 Projections – November 10, 2018

Time to drop my first projection of what the seeding looks like come Selection Sunday.  Thanks to The Bracket Project for sharing From the Rafters blog.  This has been a fun outlet to share my passion for college basketball with like-minded fans.  I stumbled upon The Bracket Matrix back in 2010 and have since enjoyed viewing and analyzing the pool of data!  I recommend devoting time to perusing the site!  Link to The Bracket Project

NCAA Field Projection – November 10, 2018

The 1s: Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Gonzaga

The 2s: Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Nevada

The 3s: Villanova, Michigan State, Auburn, Kansas State

The 4s: West Virginia, Oregon, Syracuse, Michigan

The 5s: Florida State, Mississippi State, Virginia Tech, Clemson

The 6s: Purdue, Florida, TCU, LSU

The 7s: Washington, Marquette, UCLA, Indiana

The 8s: Cincinnati, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Butler

The 9s: St. John’s, Miami FL, Texas Tech, Xavier

The 10s: Texas, Central Florida, Maryland, NC State

The 11s: Iowa State, Providence, Loyola – Chicago, Arizona, Houston, USC

The 12s: Saint Louis, Western Kentucky, Buffalo, South Dakota State

The 13s: Northeastern, Harvard, New Mexico State, Montana

The 14s: UNC-Grennsboro, Georgia State, Vermont, Stephen F. Austin

The 15s: Belmont, Rider, UC Irvine, Wright State

The 16s: Lipscomb, Lehigh, St. Francis (PA), Radford, Texas Southern, Bethune-Cookman

College Basketball Season Preview

College basketball is back today!  The first official tip-off is this afternoon at 12:30pm between Wisconsin Lutheran at Green Bay.  What a lot of college basketball fans will focus their attention on is this evenings double-header at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana where Kansas plays Michigan State and Duke plays Kentucky.  As far as the beginning of the season, conversation and debates tend to gravitate toward  conference predictions, who are sleepers and cinderellas to wreak havoc come tournament time, and players to watch.  I will briefly touch on each of those topics in this post!

Conference Predictions

The Big 12 boasts the deepest conference.  They are capable of sending a majority of their teams to the tournament and make it to the second weekend.

Big 12 Conference Prediction:

  1. Kansas
  2. West Virginia
  3. Kansas State
  4. Texas
  5. TCU
  6. Iowa State
  7. Texas Tech
  8. Baylor
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Oklahoma State

The ACC is second on my list.  This may be rather bullish, but I think the ACC can send 7, possibly 8 teams to the NCAA Tournament this year.  Four teams in Kenpom’s top 10 preseason ratings is telling, but does not reflect the body of work in the first couple months.  It will be interesting to see how things shake out in the non-conference schedule.

ACC Conference Prediction:

  1. Duke
  2. Virginia
  3. North Carolina
  4. Syracuse
  5. Florida State
  6. Clemson
  7. Miami FL
  8. Virginia Tech
  9. NC State
  10. Louisville
  11. Notre Dame
  12. Boston College
  13. Georgia Tech
  14. Pittsburgh

The Big East may have lost some talent at the top of the conference, but I think that view is a bit shortsighted.  The bottom half of the conference is loaded and each conference game will be a battle.  Also, Villanova has consistently proved that they effectively prepare their players to play at a high level annually.  It may be a rougher start to the season for the Wildcats, but I am confident Jay Wright will have sorted things out by the time the first week of Big East play begins.

Big East Prediction:

  1. Villanova
  2. Marquette
  3. Butler
  4. St. John’s
  5. Creighton
  6. Providence
  7. Seton Hall
  8. Xavier
  9. Georgetown
  10. DePaul

The Big Ten is strong at the top of the conference with Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan, and I’ll include Indiana in the mix too.  But with Illinois and Rutgers associated in the same group, that drags the conference down for me.

Big Ten Prediction:

  1. Michigan State
  2. Purdue
  3. Wisconsin
  4. Indiana
  5. Michigan
  6. Penn State
  7. Maryland
  8. Nebraska
  9. Iowa
  10. Ohio State
  11. Northwestern
  12. Minnesota
  13. Illinois
  14. Rutgers

The SEC has five strong teams that I think will make the NCAA tournament, yet after those five, there isn’t much to write home about.  I do think that LSU will surprise fans this year.

SEC Conference Prediction:

  1. Kentucky
  2. Tennessee
  3. Florida
  4. Auburn
  5. Mississippi State
  6. Texas A&M
  7. LSU
  8. South Carolina
  9. Arkansas
  10. Alabama
  11. Vanderbilt
  12. Mississippi
  13. Missouri
  14. Georgia

Sleepers and Cinderellas

Buffalo didn’t just beat Arizona, they absolute wiped the floor with the Wildcats.  The scary thing is that five of the top six scorers are back after a 27 win season.  The Bulls will be a pick to make the second weekend in the NCAA tournament this year.

If St. John’s doesn’t perform well this year, then I don’t know what the future looks like for Head Coach Chris Mullins.  Preseason Player of the Year, Shamorie Ponds, will continue to draw attention for the numbers he puts up in the scoring column, but the addition of Mustapha Heron and Sedee Keita bring depth to the Johnnies roster.  Big East conference play will be telling how St. John’s will participate in the postseason, but I expect they will join 67 other teams in the NCAA tournament.

Few seem to be talking about them currently, but the Saint Louis Billikens are on the verge of making noise this season.  They are an athletic team that has phenomenal rebounding, especially in their guards.  Offensive rebounding will keep the Billikens in games in addition to their physical bigs.  They have a deep roster that does not give up much when the rotation goes 8, 9, or 10 deep.

Loyola Chicago won the hearts of college basketball fans as they methodically made their way to the Final Four last year.  Although they lost three players from last year’s team, they bring back potential All American Clayton Custer.  The Ramblers will have to compete with a reloaded Illinois State team in the Missouri Valley Conference this season for the top spot.  I’m on the fence if this conference has the possibility to get two teams into the tournament this season.

The Nevada Wolf Pack is loaded with talent after bringing back an experienced group of players.  They are a likely pick to win out their conference and make it past the second weekend in March.

Western Kentucky brought in a five-star recruit in Charles Bassey.  His off court issues may be the hurdle that stymies the Hilltoppers season.  However, if Bassey keeps his focus on school and basketball, teammates Taveion Hollingsworth and Lamonte Bearden are set to be reliable scoring options for Bassey.

Players to Watch

South Dakota State’s Mike Daum has reached his senior season.  He will produce offensively for his squad.  He will need to average just under 25 points per game to reach 3000 career points – a feat achieved by only eight other players.  The most recent NCAA player to score 3000 career points was Doug McDermott from 2010 to 2014.  If there’s one reason that SDSU makes it back to the NCAA Tournament, it’s because of Daum and his ability to draw defenders to him and shoot accurately at a high clip.

Carsen Edwards from Purdue is a do-everything type of player.  His speed, ability to shoot the ball, and distribute to teammates effectively makes him a player to watch.  As a sophomore Edwards averaged 18.5 points a game.  Relying on him as an upperclassman invites the idea that he will be productive this season.

Duke has a plethora of freshmen to watch.  If you want rim-rocking dunks, Zion Williamson is more than willing to provide that entertainment.  However, R.J. Barrett is the savvy lefty that is versatile on both ends of the floor.  He distributes the ball at a high level and has a feel for the game that is unmatched by nearly all other NCAA college basketball players.

Markus Howard’s 52 point performance that included 11 3-pointers wasn’t the ah-ha moment fans began to pay attention to Howard’s scoring ability.  He’s always had it, but that performance drew more attention.  Howard will provide numerous sparks for Marquette throughout the season.  His role should help guide this Marquette squad to the second weekend and possibly beyond.

The loudest cheers for Indiana’s first game may not be during the actual game itself.  It may likely be when freshman Romeo Langford’s name is announced.  His shooting will excite and his level-headed persona will surprise.  Langford has potential to lead the Big Ten in scoring this season.  I’m most excited to see Marquette and Indiana play each other in what should be a game that does not lack offensive scoring.

It is always enjoyable to invite conversation and discussion as another college basketball season begins.  As this is an opinion piece, I would love to hear which teams and players you are excited to watch this year.  In the following weeks, be sure to look for updates on early season tournaments!  Happy first day of college basketball!

Butler Basketball 2018-2019 Season Preview – Part I

As the Butler Bulldogs prepare for the 2018-2019 season, I will be sharing information on their non-conference opponents.  The opponents Butler will play during the non-conference portion of the season will each be given background, a brief overview of players to watch, miscellaneous information, and then conclude with an educated guess on the outcome of the game.

In researching the teams, I find joy in exploring the details that I learn about different squads and how they arrived to their current state.  Expect between two to four opponents to be evaluated with each post before the regular season tip off for the Bulldogs on November 10!

I am excited about what lies ahead for the 2018-2019 college basketball season as a whole and for the Butler squad led by LaVall Jordan in his second year as head coach at Butler.  I attended the exhibition games the past two weekends and will briefly share a few takeaways.

First, as is custom to notice, veteran players look trimmer, especially rising sophomores with their appearance being drastically different.  Jerald Butler and Joey Brunk shed some pounds and it shows in their speed and overall athleticism.

Although it was an exhibition game against a Division II team that is coming off a 7-21 campaign last season, these games are important to see how a team meshes on the floor.  Junior, Kamar Baldwin, inherits a leadership role and will likely be a primary scorer night in and night out.  Sean McDermott looked great, hitting 3-4 from 3 point range (Butler was 8-25 for the game).

Butler had 19 assists and 5 turnovers, both promising numbers.  Something I was concerned about was stagnant play and lack of sharing the ball.  Although a small sample size, it is promising to see the Bulldogs assist on 19 of their 40 made baskets.  This will be a number to strive for as Butler begins their season.  Seeing the turnover number in single digits will generally indicate smart play.  There will be off nights, but to hope for and see these numbers is a great start for the Bulldogs.

In their second exhibition game against Southern Indiana, the Bulldogs struggled to find a flow early, which is good.  That may be an odd take for a fan, but to continue to grow, they need that experience going into the season.  After falling behind 11-2 early in the game, Butler methodically made their way back and ultimately topped the Screaming Eagles 79-58.  I will take the positive spin on this result in that the leading scorer for the game was Paul Jorgensen with 24 points.  Kamar Baldwin and Sean McDermott were a collective 4-18 from the floor.  Those numbers will not be sufficient especially when Big East conference play begins.  With a defense that needs more time to practice, Butler will need to have difficult situations in which they can learn from.  The Bulldogs defesnive shell was spread thin by ball movement and accurate 3-point shooting early against Southern Indiana.  I am confident Butler will develop and grow as a team.  There will be lessons to learn in the first two months of the season, but for now, the Bulldogs prepare for Miami of Ohio on November 10th.

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A quick note about the records against opponents:  I have found information regarding Butler’s record against their opponents on sports-reference.com.  The information provided goes back to the 1938-1939 season. The numbers will not be entirely accurate based on the history of results that occurred prior to that season.  I appreciate the database having great depth in the records they share publicly.  Thanks to Ken Pomeroy for another year with his ranking system he shares with college basketball fans.  The Kenpom Rating that is shared in this post is current when the post is shared.  Those numbers are malleable and will shift throughout the season.

Game 1: Miami Ohio  2017-2018 Record: 16-18; series record Butler leads 6-1 Last meeting: March 14, 2006, Butler 53 – Miami Ohio 52

Current Kenpom Rating: 183

Background

The Bulldogs tipoff the regular season against the Miami Ohio RedHawks, coached by Jack Owens.  After finishing last season in MAC East conference play at 8-10, Miami looks to improve in the 2018-2019 campaign.  Miami does not boast seniority on their roster.  With two redshirt seniors and one junior, a younger rotation of players can be expected to take the floor.

Players to Watch

Redhawks Sophomore guard, Nike Sibande, earned MAC Freshman of the Year awards to go along with All-MAC Honorable Mention and made the All-MAC Freshman team.  Sibande has connections with the Indianapolis area, calling the city home and having attended Crispus Attucks High School.  Sibande averaged 15.1 points per game over the season, scoring in double figures in 28 of the 34 games played.  He hit 77 three-point baskets, the third most in Miami history.  He is an expected starter in Butler’s home opener.

Abdoulaye Harouna is expected to provide on-court leadership for Miami as he comes off a redshirt season.  Something interesting about Harouna is that he was born in December 1992, making him quite an older college basketball player than most that take to the hardwood this season.

Miscellaneous Bits of Info

Benjamin Litteken, was a basketball manager last season for the RedHawks.

Expected Outcome

The result of this game should not be close.  My take is Butler shoots a high percentage from the field and wins by at least 20 points.  Butler continues to field a squad with the tallest players peaking at about 6’11” or 6’10”.  It’s worked in the past, but it forces their bigs to be quick and finish at the rim with a higher iq play frequently.  On defense, the bigs again need to be smart with positioning, but also quick to shift laterally, blocking an easy lane to the basket for the opponent.

Game 2 Detroit 2017-2018 Record: 8-24 ; series record Butler leads 42-26    Last meeting: February 4, 2012, Detroit 65 – Butler 61

Current Kenpom Rating: 333

At the end of last season, Detroit’s former head coach, Bacari Alexadner, had capped off a two year stint with a record of 16-47.  The abysmal result forced the Titans into finding a coach to turn the program around.  They did so in hiring Mike Davis, the former head coach of Texas Southern and Indiana.  Through the offseason, the roster changed and much is not expected from Davis’s first year as he hopes to build the Detroit program as he did at Texas Southern.

Players to Watch

Junior Cole Long played limited minutes last season, but is one of the few players that comes back to the rebuilt team.  He fills the stat sheet with hustle plays rather than points.

Senior guard, Josh McFolley, will be the go-to scorer for the Titans. He played in all 32 games last year and averaged 11.1 points.  He scored 20+ points in 4 games and 30+ points in 2 games last season.  His career high is 34 points against Wisconsin Green Bay.

Miscellaneous Bits of Info

Detroit’s outlook this season is bleak. According to Kenpom.com, the Titans are favored to win just one game.  Another handful of games are considered tossups.  That is due to the massive turnover of players.  It could be unfair to Detroit to say they are a weak team, but because they don’t have much playing experience together as a team with their coach, it is expected that the results of winning games won’t show themselves frequently this year.  Add to the mix 5 freshman and a number of transfers, this could turn into a season of overachieving or sitting in the cellar of the Horizon League.

Freshman Antoine Davis is the son of head coach Mike Davis.

Derrien King, a grad student, is playing for his fourth college basketball team after spending time at Santa Monica College, Washington State, Angelo State, and now Detroit.  He did not play a game while at Angelo State.

Expected Outcome

Just as in game one of the season, I expect Butler to use this game as another opportunity to get more minutes for younger guys once the lead has ballooned significantly.  I think the Bulldogs win by 20-30 points in this contest as they gear up for Ole Miss.

Game 3 Ole Miss 2017-2018 Record: 12-20; series record – will be first meeting.

Current Kenpom Rating: 94

Mississippi visits Hinkle Fieldhouse this November for the first time.  However, their new coach, Kermit Davis Jr., is no stranger to the Bulldogs.  He previously coached against Butler when he was the head coach of Middle Tennessee in the 2017 NCAA Tournament Round of 64.

Davis brings a different offensive and defensive system to the Rebels.  What once was a more run-and-gun offense will likely transition into advantageous cuts to the basket, a scheme that saw success for Davis at Middle Tennessee.  The last three years at Middle Tennessee, Davis’s teams trended toward the bottom in three pointers attempted on offense, attempting 33.6% of all shots as three-pointers last season.  The defense will likely have a different look as Davis employs a 1-3-1 zone frequently.

Players to Watch

Redshirt Junior Dominik Olejniczak will cause trouble for Butler.  He stands seven feet tall and can body up down on the low block as well as provide okay passing for teammates cutting to the basket.

Bruce Stevens, a junior, is tall, has shown he can shoot the ball well, but historically has been inconsistent.  Once rated the sixth best junior college basketball player by JUCOrecruiting.com, Stevens may provide an issue for the Bulldogs if he can hit the three ball.

Expected Outcome

Those different looks on defense will require Butler to adjust – something they have not historically been great at. Mississippi played four games abroad in Canada in August.  From what I gathered, players that were retained from last year’s team mentioned how the offense flows better and that it’s easier to get to the basket.  Butler will need to have solid communication and interior defense if they want to win this game.  I think it’s a much closer game than they had against their first two opponents of the season.  Butler 79-Ole Miss 71

Miscellaneous Bits of Info

Ole Miss will attempt to get back to the NCAA tournament this season after alternating in and out since the 2013 season.