Saturday, March 19, 2011

Butler Thrills; Cody Delivers; Could Indiana Coach Say Goodbye?

Remember when Indiana played like Butler? When it won big games, NCAA tourney games, through sheer will.

Yes, luck has played a part in the Bulldogs’ two tourney victories that propelled them into the Sweet 16 for the second straight year.

Hey, did Butler really commit a dumb foul in the final two seconds, only to have Pitt commit an even dumber foul that let the Bulldogs escape with an improbable 71-70 victory?

You’d better believe it.

Still you don’t have five NCAA tourney victories by two or fewer points in the last 10 years (two more than any other team), as Butler has done, just through luck. You do it with smart play, poised play and attention to detail.

Butler is the third team in NCAA tourney history to beat a No. 1 seed before the Final Four in consecutive years. Last year it upset No. 1 Syracuse in the Sweet 16. On Saturday night it stunned No. 1 Pitt in the Round of 32.

This was no fluke. Butler shot 46 percent against Pitt’s fierce defense. It only committed six turnovers. It did everything it needed to give itself a chance.

And then, as usual, the Bulldogs made the most of it. They have won seven of their last eight NCAA tourney games and if Gordon Hayward’s half-court bomb had been released just a fraction softer last April, they would have beaten Duke in the national title game and been 8-for-8.

No matter. Butler has made the Sweet 16 in four of the last six years and has won 11 straight games. Now it will face Wisconsin in New Orleans.

Butler isn’t Indiana, but it’s the closest thing Cream ‘n Crimson fans have these days. The Bulldogs have players such as Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack who have a knack for drama. Howard has scored the winning points in both of the Bulldogs’ tourney victories. Mack set a school record with 30 points against Pitt, but did commit the late foul that nearly cost Butler a victory.

They aren’t Hoosiers, but then again, they are. That counts for something.


Could Tim Buckley be on his way to Northern Illinois?

It’s possible. The Indiana assistant coach is reportedly a finalist for the job that opened when Ricardo Patton was fired after four seasons, including a disastrous 9-21 showing this year, 5-11 in the Mid-American Conference.

Buckley has a lot of MAC experience from his days at Ball State. He was the head coach there for six seasons and compiled a 143-139 record.

Buckley came to IU with head coach Tom Crean three years ago. His in-state contacts have been a big reason why Crean has loaded up on in-state talent.

Buckley was an assistant under Crean at Marquette for a year. He also was an assistant coach at Iowa.

The other Northern Illinois candidates, according to ESPN Chicago, are Purdue assistant coach Paul Lusk, Gonzaga assistant Ray Giacoletti and South Dakota State head coach Scott Nagy.


As a reader astutely pointed out, Washington only had to beat Batesville on Saturday to make the state finals. In a brain dead moment, I reverted back to the days of one-class Indiana high school basketball when teams played two games in the semistate, and two at state. Those days are gone, much like my ability to beat my son in arm wrestling.

Anyway, Cody Zeller led the Hatchets over Batesville Saturday, 66-48. They will face Culver Academies in next Saturday’s Class 3A state title game at Indianapolis’ Conseco Fieldhouse. Culver (19-6) advanced by beating Columbia City 51-49.

Also, Indianapolis Park Tudor point guard Yogi Ferrell was a one-man basketball force while leading his team past Forest Park and into next Saturday’s Class 2A state title game. Ferrell had 25 points and seven assists in the 57-45 victory. Park Tudor (25-2) will play Hammond Noll (26-0) for the championship.

Ferrell is a key part of Crean’s Class of 2012. Why? Because he’s a true point guard, something the Hoosiers don’t have and likely won’t until he shows up in Bloomington.

IU’s bid to return to national relevance centers on two key positions -- point guard and post player. The Hoosiers will get Zeller next year, but he likely won’t be an imposing inside presence that immediately averages a ton of rebounds and dominate games with defense. IU needs a power forward with power and it is scouring the junior college ranks to find one. The problem -- there really isn’t anybody like that.

Also, recruit D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera had 19 points and four assists, but that wasn’t enough for Indianapolis North Central (22-3) to get past Bloomington South in Class 4A semistate action. South (25-2) won 76-66.



  2. Kokomo beat #1 Ranked Munster in the Lafayette Semi-State 47-44. Thanks for including them as Bloomington South's opponent.