Brad Stevens has gotten so accustomed to walking away with buzzer-beating wins that he doesn't even flinch or un-cross his arms when it happens.
This latest incident involving the Boy Wonder's Butler team, came against No. 8 Gonzaga in a matchup of two top-15 teams that happened to be the best college basketball game of the season. Though the No. 13 Bulldogs were playing without sharpshooter Rotnei Clarke (16.2 points per game), who is out after injuring his neck, they scrapped like always and ended up trading baskets down the stretch. Per the usual, Indiana's favorite Bulldogs came away with the last shot after forcing a turnover on an inbounds play and, of course, Roosevelt Jones made the runner to win the game.
The team's defense is improving and the younger players are coming into their own, as was obvious versus Gonzaga. Jones, a sophomore, poured in 20 points including the game-winner while freshman Kellen Dunham provided the long-range threat. Stevens is one of the best coaches in the country. He seems to prove it on a weekly basis nowadays.
This now gives Butler wins over Marquette, North Carolina, Indiana and Gonzaga, and has most opposing coaches thinking the same thing: "Please, not my bracket."
SATURDAY BRINGS THE GOODS
As if a spot-on half-court shot on College Gameday wasn't enough to start the weekend off on the right foot, the weekend's marquee showdowns — with the noted exception of Florida-Missouri, which turned ugly very quickly — lived up to the hype.
Of the remaining four games involving ranked teams on Saturday, the games were decided by a combined 14 points. Again: Fourteen points. With a dearth of truly elite teams (i.e. 2011-12 Kentucky or 2008-09 North Carolina) the competitive nature of college basketball seems to be revving up this season, at least to the naked eye.
With Syracuse knocking off No. 1 Louisville in thrilling fashion this weekend, we've now seen the top-ranked team lose three times in the first 11 weeks. Ten different teams have landed in the top-five. Add in the fact that Saturday, in particular, offered a full buffet of big-time upsets, mid-major thrillers, standout individual performances. Things are shaping up for a solid March.
WHERE YOU BEEN?
UNLV freshman Anthony Bennett shot up the charts of must-see players early on this season for good reason: The 6-foot-8 kid is a beast. Though the physical specimen continues to averages 18.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game — calls for an All-American spot have already been made — he’s slowed down recently and the Rebels felt his semi-slump in turn.
After scoring in double figures in each of his first 16 college games, including 10 outings of 20 points or more, Bennett has now been held in check for nine points in back-to-back games. UNLV fell to Colorado State, 66-61, this Saturday.
The Rebels, considered a possible Elite Eight or Final Four contender when things are clicking, have now lost three of their past seven games and really need Bennett — and the rest of the team — to get things going in the right direction. Quickly.