Sometimes I hate journalism. Thursday night was one of those times.
Not that what I do for The Bootleg is hard-hitting
investigative reporting, but I'm trying to make a conscious effort to be a
little more than just a cheerleader. No more "we"s and "our"s. That kind
But against Butler this past Thursday, all I wanted to do was
shed that pseudo-writer roll and enjoy the game as a fan, because it was one
helluva game. And a heartbreaking one if you're a Cardinal fan (which, well, you
probably are if you're reading this), as the reigning two-time NCAA runner-up
Butler Bulldogs outlasted the Farm Boys 71-66.
I love knock ‘em down,
grind ‘em out games; I was raised on Heat-Knicks. While there was no brawl
that resulted in Johnny Dawkins sprawled out on the court and holding on to
Andrew Smith's leg for dear life, Thursday's game was played with a
physicality that we don't normally see Stanford partake in.
because they don't play Butler that often. Unfortunately for the Cardinal, they
couldn't out-tough the Bulldogs. That statement is not something to be
concerned about, because quite frankly with Stephen A. Smith, there are very few
teams who can hang with Butler in the toughness category.
It wasn't that
Stanford didn't have a tough-minded effort going into and throughout the game -
they did. But this was Butler, mid-major-bad Butler, and Stevens' group was just
more alert for loose balls and missed shots that in the end did Stanford
Perhaps the best thing that really tough teams do is rebound.
Thursday night, Butler outrebounded Stanford 34-29 and 11-7 on the offensive
glass. All things considered, I'm not all too displeased with that
statistic, considering Stanford was being outrebounded 20-10 at the break and
7-2 on the "OREB" department halfway through.
However, on the two
possessions that did the Cardinal in, Butler retrieved offensive rebounds on
both of them. First, with the game at 59-55, Roosevelt Jones (man, I love this
kid) snatched up a missed shot that didn't hit rim to eventually give Ronald Nored a supposedly-shot-clock beating heave-ho
PAUSE: I have been told that the replay
shows that the ball was clearly in Nored's hands when the shot clock hit zero. I
will say this much - that's a very tough call to make in the flow of play. I was
mad, but I can't hold it against the zebras.
whose call that was? Kevin Freakin' Brill. That's right, the SAME dude that cost
the Cardinal a shot at the Pac-10 championship back in March 2008 with his
phantom call on Lawrence Hill for supposedly getting body on Darren Collison on
a very impressive block that would have put both the Cardinal and Bruins at 14-3
in conference play with one game left (I feel like Napoleon Dynamite's uncle
every time I recall this incident).
And it was that man who
correctly told Dawkins that his boys can't review that call.
out- starting with the railroading that was Stanford-UCLA in March 2008 that
rivaled the Montreal Screw job in the 1997 WWF Survivor Series, Stanford is 3-8
in games Kevin Brill has officiated. In other games during that time span, the
Cardinal are 60-46. In other words, Stanford's winning percentage is more than
two times greater (.566) in games not officiated by Kevin Brill than in games in
which Brill is (.273).
COINCEDENCE?!?! CONSPIRACY?!?! (Almost certainly
not, but it makes you think, or makes me think, at least. Is he a Freemason?!
Illuminati?! Who knows?!)
Alright, back to the game.
Before I so
rudely interrupted myself, the second killer offensive rebound didn't go down as
an offensive rebound in the box score. But it was the heads-up pass off the
glass from nearly half court to Andrew Smith for the layup as the shot clock
expired in what was one of the smartest plays I've seen in, well, I don't know
how long. But Smith's awareness to box Gage out and snatch the ball was a
testament to the smarts and toughness of that Butler team. That play was just
about the nail in the coffin.
Another key to the Butler victory was their
dribble hand-off action around the perimeter, which caused some confusion for
the Cardinal defense. It would lead to a lot of odd switches, such as
Owens out at the three point line guarding a perimeter and Chasson Randle pinned
down low having to go up against Erik Fromm, who had four easy points near the
end of the first half as a result of those switches.
Also, Butler got
right against Stanford, like they did last year in Indianapolis. This team
couldn't hit the backside of a barn against the Zags on Tuesday night, hitting
just one of their last 13 three-point attempts. And they had some pretty good
looks, too. Thursday night? The Bulldogs were six of nine from beyond the arc at
one point in the second half. And yes, they had wide open looks thanks to their
ability to get the Stanford D to collapse on dribble penetration, but they
certainly were just feeling it as much as they had all season long.
the Stanford side, Randle showed a lot of grit with his 16-point effort and
muscled in a few big shots down low. So did Josh Owens, who played like a man
possessed- how about that low-block spin move he had in the second half? Dwight Powell also had perhaps his most controlled and productive offensive night by
dominating the low-post when he got the ball there. John Gage was bombin' from
downtown…again. Not enough, though. Not enough defense and not enough
rebounding. With the way Butler has played this year, 66 points should be enough
to beat the Bulldogs. Not the case on Thursday.
I really thought the Card
could get to 11-1 in their non-conference slate this year; I spent about 2,000
words saying as much back in September. They almost got there. And, up
seven early in the second half with the basketball, it looked like they
But 10-2 ain't bad. In fact, it's tied for first in the Pac-12.
And, considering who Oregon State has played, I'd say Stanford's 10-2 is much
There was a lot of frustrated chatter on the board after the
game, but Stanford is still in very good shape. After all, it was Butler, and I
don't care what their record says, they are still one of the toughest teams to
beat in the country. They just knocked off Purdue after facing a similar
second half deficit on the road last weekend. Come March, you KNOW they will be
in prime position to win yet another Horizon League title.
This loss can
be a big positive. The Card are going to be stewing over this loss for a whole
week and three days completely off the court before they even started preparing
for UCLA. Think they'll come out with an edge on Thursday? I'd hope
My non-conference goal for this team wasn't quite reached, but
Stanford is in good position for an at-large bid.
Twelve and six is the
next goal. Stanford achieves that- plus a win in the Pac-12 tourney - and they
should be dancing for the first time since the Lopi were on the
Can't wait for a suddenly-streaking Bruins squad to come to town.
Please, just no Kevin Brill.
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And 1: Butler 71, Stanford 66
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