Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Butler wins again

It's no longer news that the Big East is better than most thought it would be.  A year after hangover would be excusable for Villanova, and Xavier already peaked.  Seton Hall and Creighton looked to be ascending, but were considered fringe 25 teams.  DePaul and St. John's are currently rebuilding and have no chance, and Providence is retooling and hoping to compete without any established or nationally acclaimed players.  That left Butler, Marquette, and Georgetown on the Bubble.  Butler, with much transition and tragedy the last 18 months, look like more of a long shot.

Thus far Nova has held serve, Xavier is reaching new heights, and Creighton looked to be making the step until the Hanson injury will force them to reevaluate the rotation.  Providence is exceeding expectations in the early going, playing tight in games they looked to be far outclassed.  Seton Hall and Georgetown scheduled the gauntlet, which has not phased the Pirates, though there is real reason for concern on the Potomac, and JTIII has to be feeling some heat.

Surprising and joining the Top 3 has been Butler, no longer looking like a bubble team but a legitimate major conference threat that could earn a top 4 seed.  They picked up an early win over fellow bubble denizen Northwestern, traveled to slay Vandy and Arizona, then capped it off with a road win at Utah, which is about as inhospitable conditions to play in as they come.  Rolling to 7-0 is solid, but the quality of wins already has them in the driver's seat against 3 conferences when pitting strength of schedule.  They still can grab two more big wins hosting Cinci and taking Indiana in Indianapolis.

Chris Holtman is actually creatively mixing small and big lineups to suffocate opponents.  Right now, Kenpom has identified that Kamar Baldwin may be warranting more minutes as a defensive specialist, and the ancillary shooters are hitting regularly enough that teams cannot key and pinch on Martin.  Other than height, the Bulldogs do not have a weakness that the big boys can exploit.  While there is no way they are going undefeated, they will be a tough out for the rest of the Big East.

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