Butler Vs. Indiana
Spread: BUT -13
Moneyline: IND U -1000, BUT +700
Tipoff: 7 PM EST
Betting odds taken from Bookmaker.
Last season, Butler finished with a 28-10 record, including a 13-5 record in Horizon Conference play. They lost 53-41 to UCONN in the national championship game, marking another close but not quite cigar season for the Bulldogs, but if nothing else — they have established themselves as one of the premier teams in the country and a program that is one to be wreckoned with. They may not end up with a high seed come March, but it seldom matters; the Bulldogs make noise.
There were big differences between this and the 2010 team which also fell short. Their defense was great again, but not as good as fellow conference foes Valpo and Cleveland State. Coach Brad Stevens realizes that it begins and ends with improving the defense:
“We’ll be able to do a little more, to be quite honest, than we were able to do last year defensively. We’re just so much more versatile.”
This versatility can be found in the form of Ronald Nored, a 6’0″ senior point guard, who is known as a lockdown perimetere defender and stopper and his defense has only continued to improve as he has grown as a player. He’s not off to a good start at all, though. Through 5 games, Nored is getting the minutes (31.2), but he is not producing. With a field goal percentage of 27.3 and a three point percetnage of 28.6, he must greatly improve his shooting. With those poor percentages, it renders him a 5 point per game scorer. He is, however, doing a good job of distributing the rock with 5.6 assists per night.
Andrew Smith, the leading scorer so far, and Khyle Marshall, are expected to pick up much of the slack. Smith is putting up 12.6 points per game in 27 minutes of play per night, while shooting 51.5% from the floor. His best game came in the opening night loss to Evansville, when he scored 21 points, getting to the line 12 times and pulling down 9 boards, as well. Smith and Marshall are both going to have big plates before them all season. Marshall has been very efficient this year, if nothing else. He’s really only had one good game, in the 4 point loss to #7 ranked Louisville, a game in which he scored 20 points on 8 of 13 shooting. His efficiency though, as I said has been there: He is shooting 66.7% from the floor this season, though still struggling from the line at 61.5% FT.
Chrishawn Hopkins and Chase Stigall round out Butler’s key players and are averaging 12.0 points per game and 9.2, respectively. Stigall, a 6’3″ junior guard, needs to hit a higher percentage from behind the arc than the 32% he shot a year ago. Thus far this season, he has accepted that challenge and improved to 36.6%. That percentage is aided by his 4 of 9 three point shooting performance in the 2 point thriller victory over, a game in whch Aldridge Jackson iced it at the line, before Butler secured a game saving rebound on a last second free throw miss by Gardner Webb. Hopkins had 22 that game and Stigall contributed 14. If the two of them can consistently pair together like that in the backcourt, the Bulldogs will be very dangerous.
Last season was a miserable one for the Hoosiers. They finished with a 12-20 overall record and were just 3-15 in Big Ten play, often not even looking like a major conference team, even against non-conference opponents. They lost 61-55 in the first round of the Big Ten tournament, which actually constituted a big moral victory for a lost season. While 1.02 points per possession offensively isn’t anything to hang one’s hat on, it is not quite as absymal as the 1.14 they allow per game, so their defense must improve.
So far this season, it has. The Hoosiers are off to a blazing 5-0 start, but find themselves as big underdogs against a Butler team that made it to the national championship game last season. While it is great to beat the likes of Gardner Webb and Evansville, it doesn’t quite compare to a team like Butler, so the Hoosiers know they are in for a big task tonight in dealing with the backcourt play and all around defensive peskiness of the Bulldogs.
There were almost no scholarship athletes in play for Indiana last season, and they were basically starting from scratch again. It doesn’t bode well for coach Tom Crean, whose Hoosiers teams had already only won 16 games in his first two seasons combined.
One good thing is that they were at least more competitive:
Their efficiency margin improved from -0.19 in 2009 and 2010 to -0.12. What that means essentially, is they were horrible — but not quite as horrible as in the two years prior; or, in other words, they still got blown out, but not quite by as much. It’s not exactly the kind of moral victory that lures in top recruits, but you have to start somewhere.
One of the main problems behind it all is absolutely atrocious defense. It’s bad enough to get scored on. It’s considerably worse to always be in the penalty one and one situations and send drivers to the basket to convert three point plays. They gave up free throws at a rate higher than any other major conference team in the country (substatiating my claim that they didn’t play like a major conference team at all). Opponents attempted 52 free throws per 100 possessions. I’m not sure how you quantify that, but it isn’t good.
The Hoosiers have been mainly employing a 6 man rotation, with Derek Elston getting some fringe minutes to make it a borderline 7 man rotation. All 5 of the top 6 Indiana players average double figures, and Cody Zeller leads the way. Zeller averaged 25 ppg and 13 rpg as a senior at Washington High school in Indiana and was a top 15 prospect. He chose Indiana because he wants to help rebuild a local program. That’s admirable. He has been their best player so far. The first year 6’11” big man is averaging a team high 14.6 points per game, to go with 7.6 boards per night. he has scored in double figures in all but the blowout victory over Chattanooga (when he attempted only 3 field goals). His 23 point, 13 free throw attempt game against Savannah State was impressive, and he missed only one of his seven field goal attempts.
6’5″ sophomore swingman Victor Oladipo has been impressive too. Though he did most of his damage in the first two games of the season (against Stony Brook and Chattanooga), he did manage double figures last game against Gardner Webb, with 13 points. His game against Chatanooga was impressive, as he shot 6 of 9 from the floor and 8 of 11 from the line. He also has the potential to set up teammates, as he recorded 5 assists against Gard-Webb, as well.
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