Saturday, February 23, 2008

BB liveblog: Drake at Butler

This dude: good.

Here we are at the marquee match-up of the day, two-loss Drake at two-loss Butler in the (packed) gym so incalculably cool they had to film "Hoosiers" there. This is going to be awesome. We're picking things up with about 12:30 left in the first half, Butler up 12-10 and both teams struggling from outside.

5:20 p.m. Here's one of the funny misconceptions about Butler: they don't really shoot the lights out on a night-to-night basis. Oh, they're explosive, but Graves has been a bit off all season and Green's not quite a Korver, exactly. He shows hat here again, barely drawing iron on a three as we head into the under-12 timeout.

5:27 p.m. What do you get when you combine two teams who love threes the way Rick Majerus loves room service and clamp down like vises inside the arc? The three-a-palooza we're getting now, with both teams firing away from anywhere inside 30 feet. Drake's Leonard Houston has been the only guy showing any inclination to go inside and he's been rewarded with back-to-back baskets to put Drake up 14-12.

5:32 p.m. The difference so far has been Drake's ability to poke some holes into that Butler interior D. Some tricky interior passing (and a switch that leaves Graves on a Drake post dude twice his size) nets an Drake and-1 and a 19-14 lead. Jonathan Cox gets another lob a moment later for 21-17 with 6:45 left in the half.

5:35 p.m. He may not be quite as good a shooter as his rep suggests, but good gosh does A.J. Graves do everything else. He finds Matt Howard on a 25-foot cross-court pass for a lay-in. Somewhere Steve Nash is nodding in approval.

5:37 p.m. The jitters have worn off and both teams are looking like the clinical offensive juggernauts they've been for most of the season. The Bulldogs start raining threes and Josh Young hits a pair from the field. A game that was in the single digits it seems like the blink of an eye ago is 31-28 with three minutes and change to play.

5:41 p.m. In case you haven't heard: Josh Young is awesome. He's a good 24 feet out, has just the slightest bit of space, takes an innocuous-looking pass, and from the moment even before he takes the pass he's shooting. Rises up, perfect form, buries it. The very essence of confidence. Someone needs to send a clip of that to the guys hawking those "Better Basketball" DVDs on late-night NBATV.

5:46 p.m. Young should also be getting his "Actor's Equity" guild card soon after falling over from a Graves tap on the arm. He hits all three freebies and despite a rain of Butler threes it's Drake with the one-point lead in the final minute of the half.

5:50 p.m. Green misses a short jumper, a Drake nudge under the hoop goes unpunished, and the teams walk off the court for halftime. The officials are very, very unpopular at the moment, what with the no-call there following another foul call that sent Cox to the line for two that pushed Drake's lead to three. Ho MAN this second half is going to rock.

6:07 p.m. The corollary to the "Butler isn't a phenomenal shooting team, just really good" theory is that they win by simply never turning the ball over and burying you under total shots rather than percentage. Your latest piece of evidence: precisely one turnover in the first half. Of course, they commit two in the first minute of the second half, but still.

6:08 p.m. Young pulls up in Howard's face and drills a three. Ho-hum. Drake's now up six, their largest lead

6:10 p.m. Of course, anyone surprised that Butler scores the next eight with the most recent four by Graves has an exceedingly low threshold for surprise. There's just no way this game isn't going to be close in the final few minutes.

6:13 p.m. I'd forgotten that Butler has a guy named "Streicher," pronounced "Striker" ... Striker, striker, striker, Striker! *punch* ... I'm going to be thinking about that all night.

6:15 p.m. Houston cans a three. Honestly, is it that much a wonder Drake is this good when they've got two guys in Young and Houston who can either get to the rim or nail threes and can surround them with players as smart as Cox and Klayton Korver ... and as I type that, Korver pretends to shoot a long three and instead it's an alley-oop to Houston, who jumps out of the gym to bring it in. Freaking awesome.

6:17 p.m. Butler runs a lob of their own to perfection to retake the lead. If you think a game like this isn't worth watching because of the names of the schools on the jerseys, you hate America.

6:23 p.m. If there's been fewer announcing complaints this game, it's being called by Ron Franklin, quite possibly the world's finest play-by-play guy, and the very sensible Fran Fraschilla. On behalf of mid-major fans everywhere: thank you so much, ESPN, for dumping Vitale on the Memphis and Tennessee fans.

6:26 p.m. Adam Emmenecker of Drake tracks down a ball everyone in the gym thought was out off of Drake, flicks it to Houston, and Drake gets a layup. Tie game at 52. This is my first look at Drake, and it's really not that hard to see why this team has run away with the Valley--they're really, really good.

6:30 p.m. Honestly, the way these teams play D and protect the basketball, who'd have expected we'd already be at 52-52 with more than 10 minutes left? And that's after both teams have gone scoreless the last few trips. Bottom line is that this game has been even better than billed.

6:35 p.m. Man, tough foul call on Butler on a drive by Houston. In a game as tightly contested as this one, you want to see the players decide it even more than usual. Fraschilla had his first sort of awkward moment, saying that Drake had trailed and won lots of times. Seeing as their only down 57-54, I don't think anyone had exactly written them off yet, Fran.

6:40 p.m. Butler's up four, 58-54, with 7:31 to play when Emmenecker misses the front end of a one-and-one. Good as they may be, I don't think Drake wants to let that lead sneak out to seven or eight. When guys like Graves and Green are on the other side, they're probably going to be not-too-bad at milking clock if need be.

6:43 p.m. Man, nevermind, Cox's tip-in ties the game at 58, Graves misses a 3, Korver connects from NBA range. As I said, this game was probably foretold by Nostradamus to be tight all the way. It was never going to be otherwise.

6:49 p.m. Not the best pair of possessions for Green. First he turns it over and Emmenecker and Young turn it into two on the other end (63-58), then he bricks the front end of a one-and-one, and after Butler recovers he has a shot blocked by the increasingly pestilent Emmenecker. Rough with a capital R, there. Howard gets things going again with an and-1, though.

6:55 p.m. Howard tries to force a pass inside and fails (Butler's ninth TO of the half ... not surprising, then, they're behind, is it?) and Drake, up four with under three minutes, start stalling. But whoops, block, Graves drives and goes to the line, two-point game again. Time out Drake, 64-62, 1:47 to play, this is awesome.

7:02 p.m. Holy crap, Butler tips a pass, the ball starts to fly out of bounds, Young recovers, but has his foot on the line. Then Green charges (Emmenecker once again. And--holy crap, again--after running 33 seconds off the clock Young gets fouled by Green as he launches a last-gasp three. The crowd makes a complete hash of FCC regulations (yes, that's the term that rhymes with "full spit" you're hearing clearly) in response. But I think it's a good call--Green immediately throws up his hands, the sign of the guilty. Young hits all three. 67-62.

7:04 p.m. Butler hits two, one-possession game, but just 14.2 remaining when Drake calls a timeout. And Drake, Franklin explains, has gone 33-35 their last two games. Goodness. Could a stat scream "fundamentally sound" any louder?

7:05 p.m. Houston breaks free! Houston scores! That'll do it! Man, what a game. The fans boo lustily as of course they will--that call on Green pretty much decided the game, proper though I think it was--but I tend to agree with Fraschilla that it was a pretty well officiated game. Besides, if Butler doesn't turn the ball over quite so much in the second half, they win the game.

7:10 p.m. So where do these teams go from here? Six-seeds, maybe worse. Butler was a little bit ahead on the "dominant mid-major conference titlist without a genuine top-drawer victory" see-saw, but I think this result evens things up. But the committee's not really going to give sufficient credit to either one. Remember a couple years ago when George Washington had this same resume and got dumped all the way to an 8 seed? If the Bulldogs (both sets) can avoid more than one debilitating conference loss down the stretch, a 7-seed should be the floor. But add more than one L and who knows. Hell, who knows anyway; this is the NCAA Selection Committee we're talking about. They hate these teams the way I hate mosquitos.

None of that changes the fact that both these teams are clearly outstanding basketball teams and that surviving them come March is going to be like any variety of painful dental procedure you'd wish to name. This was an incredible game and I can't wait to see what either one will do in the NCAAs.

1 comment:

Ben said...

Great game. Do you think Graves has a legit shot at playing in the NBA?