Early Favorites To Win College Basketball’s Power Conferences

Everything in college basketball changes when conference play begins.

Those in power have done wonders to drum up interest in early-season action, with big name teams being featured in tournaments and showcases for the first few months of the season. But blowout wins over cupcake opponents and sloppy early-season play are littered throughout that part of the schedule.

Conference play brings rivalries, road games with student-sections, and a landslide of upsets. In short, it’s the reason we love college basketball. On top of that, succeeding in one of America’s toughest conferences is the best way to prove yourself before March Madness tips off.

With that in mind, here are the early favorites to win the six biggest conferences in college hoops.

ACC – Duke

The Blue Devils might be the boring and obvious pick, but at this point in the season, they are also the most qualified. Duke’s overtime home loss to Stephen F. Austin was a bad mishap, but it’s their only blemish so far. Aside from that slip-up, Duke has impressed with wins over Michigan State, Kansas, Georgetown and Miami.

The ACC’s other top contender, Louisville, lost at home to Florida State this weekend and only gets to play Duke once this season — a road game at Cameron Indoor. Advantage to the Blue Devils.

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Big East – Butler

It’s always somewhat shocking to pencil anyone into a Big East title that is not Villanova, yet Butler’s play so far this season has been eye-popping enough to earn this level of respect. The Bulldogs have just one loss, by one point at 4th-ranked Baylor.

Head coach LaVall Jordan has Butler winning games on the defensive end of the floor. The Bulldogs rank fourth in defensive efficiency, per KenPom, thanks to top-ten performances in 3-point percentage allowed, effective field goal percentage allowed and defensive rebounding rate. Butler fights to get stops and follows them with rebounds.

Offensively, everything churns through senior guard Kamar Baldwin. His 14.7 point per game average doesn’t fully explain how capable he is of taking over a game in crunch time.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten – Michigan State

A few weeks ago, when Ohio State was 9-0 and ranked in the top three in the AP Poll, this answer would have been different. Back then, Michigan State was just 6-3 and clearly had some issues on the offensive end.

Since December 8, Ohio State has lost three of its last five games, while Michigan State has sparked a six-game winning streak. The Spartans are now two games ahead of the Buckeyes in the loss column in Big Ten play and sit a full 1.5 games ahead of the rest of the conference in the standings.

Make no mistake — the Big Ten is college basketball’s toughest conference and will be an absolute battle all season long. Even so, any team eager to compete for the title will need to go into the Breslin Center in East Lansing and win. With Tom Izzo on the sidelines and Cassius Winston patrolling the court for Sparty, that’s not likely to happen much, if at all, this season.

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Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports
By Shane McNichol  |  Last updated 1/7/20

Butler Stops Novas Home Streak At 48 Games

Written by Kyle Boone at CBSSports.com

Against a group of Villanova seniors who had never lost on their home floor, Butler cemented its status as the Wildcats slayer by winning 74-66 and finishing the season sweep of the reigning national champions.

Butler’s comeback victory snapped the No. 2 Wildcats’ 48-game winning streak at The Pavilion.

“We played one of the toughest teams in the country in Villanova tonight,” Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. “If you’re not tough against Villanova, it’s going to be a tough night.”

It was a tough night regardless, but the No. 22 Bulldogs pulled it out behind a staunch defensive effort and timely shooting down the stretch.

The Bulldogs found themselves in a familiar position, entering the game as a 10-point underdog. Whether it’s Brad Stevens or Chris Holtmann at the helm, Butler is somehow always underrated — and almost always overachieves.

Maybe Butler likes playing as an underdog. Or maybe Holtmann’s team responds best to the intense pressure of playing top teams.

Whatever the case, it’s time the Bulldogs received their due.

Butler had its back to the wall, trailing by seven with 10 minutes to play. But the Bulldogs mounted a 15-0 run stitched together by hard-nosed defense and forcing the veteran Wildcats into making rookie mistakes with untimely turnovers and ill-advised shots.

“It didn’t look real good when we fell behind [in the second half],” Holtmann said, “but our guys showed some grit tonight.”

Butler outscored Villanova 32-17 over the final 10 minutes.

Grit is an understatement.

Two of Villanova’s three losses have come to Butler. And while the Bulldogs likely won’t get a huge boost for beating a conference foe (with the Big East standings all but set), it made them only the third team to earn six victories against ranked opponents.

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Creighton Beats Butler For Second Straight Time

Written by Lukas Harkins at Busting Brackets.com

For the second time during this NCAA basketball season, the Creighton Bluejays handed the Butler Bulldogs a loss, this time on Butler’s home floor.

In the Busting Brackets Daily Wrap-Up, we go through the major games of the day with a few short summaries and articles to keep you up to date on the recent news in the college basketball world. This covers the biggest games of yesterday and today, as well as looking at major news stories from across the nation.

We also go through each game of key importance in our “Games to Watch” section, which includes a Game of the Day and a Bubble Battle.

Here we go:

Without Maurice Watson Jr., Creighton notches their second straight win and second win against Butler on the season. Tyler Clement and Davion Mintz took over at the point guard position and helped the Bluejays run crisp offensive sets as they carved up Butler’s poor defense.

Justin Jackson led the Terps with 22 points in what was yet another win for a team that just doesn’t lose easily. For a bubble team like Ohio State, this is a crushing missed opportunity that could come back to haunt them if their name doesn’t get called on Selection Sunday. Jae’Sean Tate led the Buckeyes with 20 points.

It was another elite defensive game for Wisconsin as they took care of business against another tournament hopeful out of the Big Ten. Ethan Happ had a very respectable double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds. Maverick Morgan and Malcolm Hill were the only two Illini to reach double figures, with 10 apiece.

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Is Butler the Real Deal?

Written by Tom Davis at News-Sentinel 

Much like trying to analyze the how and the why from the most recent Presidential election, seeking an easy, definitive answer as to the how and the why Butler continually defies skeptics and maintains its status as the best NCAA Division I men’s basketball program in Indiana isn’t just difficult to do, it’s impossible.There are a whole host of reasons why Butler is now 10-1 and climbed Monday to 13th in the nation after graduating stars Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham off last year’s team.

It isn’t as simple as “Butler does (fill in the blank), and that is why it is always good.”You can fall back on “The Butler Way keeps the program successful,” and you would be absolutely correct. But “The Butler Way” is an all-encompassing mantra that is comprised of an array of facets; it isn’t just one thing or even a few things.

The same reasons (plural) as to why Butler is good again this year despite Jones and Dunham being gone, are the same in explaining why the Bulldogs won 22 games in 1999 after graduating Jon Neuhouser and Matthew Graves; or won 26 games in 2009 after graduating Mike Green and A.J. Graves; or went to a national championship game (2011) after Gordon Hayward left for the NBA.Butler basketball is bigger than any player or coach, and as long as the core philosophy of “The Butler Way” is followed by those within the program, it will continue to be successful.That has to be disheartening to the opposition.

There is no “Wait until (player X) graduates, then we’ll beat Butler for years!”If the Bulldogs can not be bothered by the most talented player in program history (Hayward) or arguably the best coach in the sport (Brad Stevens) leaving; no offense to any current guys (or future ones) in the program, but this thing will continue to carry on long after they depart.

If it helps to simplify why this particular Bulldog team has achieved what it has, other than stating the obvious, which is that it is comprised of skilled, athletic, mentally tough, talented, and mature players, that play unselfishly and with great effort (there, that is essentially is “The Butler Way,” in a nutshell), you can look to this reason: Butler as a team is very smart.The basketball intellect of this group is at an elite level, which doesn’t really differentiate it from other Bulldog teams, but it does help to explain this year’s success.That trait was put on display in Saturday’s 83-78 win over No. 9-ranked Indiana.

A mere 14 seconds into the game, Bulldog junior center Tyler Wideman turned the ball over against a really athletic, hard-working Indiana defensive team, which wasn’t all that surprising. After all, the Hoosiers force their opponents into missing 62 percent of their shots and throwing the ball away almost a dozen times each game.

However, what was stunning was that aside from junior forward Kelan Martin turning it over five more times during the course of the game, not a single other Butler player committed a turnover throughout the next 39:46.

“We’re a team that always takes carte of the ball,” fifth-year point guard Tyler Lewis said. “I feel like that is one of my strong points as a basketball player is taking care of the ball. If I take care of the ball, I know the team is going to follow suit.”That is another example of “The Butler Way” at play. The young players come into the program and just like puppies, learn from the older ‘Dawgs.

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