Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Westside

March 18, 2014

Uphill climb awaits Butler hoops

A season that began with a lot of promise for the Butler men’s basketball team ended with a familiar thud in Wednesday’s 51-50 loss to Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament.

Butler was 10-2 entering its first Big East slate, but stumbled to a 4-15 mark the rest of the way. While the Bulldogs dropped six games by five points or less, only two came after Jan. 11. They also had six double-digit defeats in conference play, including a 28-point whipping at Creighton.

The season was handicapped before it even started, when junior Roosevelt Jones broke his wrist on a team trip to Australia. Jones’ presence, however, wouldn’t have gotten Butler close to an NCAA tourney bid. They might’ve won a couple more games, but for a team whose worst fundamental trait was foul shooting, Jones’ coin-flip rate wouldn’t have put the Bulldogs over the top any more than that.

While its size disadvantage and recruiting misses were other detriments, it was the absence of Brad Stevens that was felt the most. Stevens is one of the best coaches in history, especially out of timeouts and in the final two minutes. Brandon Miller couldn’t have lived up to that, and truth be told, likely never will.

Butler lacked poise and focus in the closing minutes in its narrow defeats, and Miller often failed his players. The tourney loss to Seton Hall was a microcosm, when he didn’t call a timeout with 10 seconds left to set up a best-look play, followed by Kellen Dunham inbounding the ball from full-court while needing a 3-pointer with just four ticks left on the clock.

After the season-ending loss, Miller said he was happy his team played its best at the end of the year. Most who watched the team since November would call that assessment inaccurate. They looked better in the first six weeks, with a win over Purdue and close losses to Oklahoma State, LSU and Villanova.

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