My heart broke this morning when I heard the news from Newtown, Conn. I myself am not a father, but I can't begin to imagine the pain that these parents and children are feeling right now. It is hard to write about sports at a time like this, but I have to remind myself that this could be, even for just one person, a momentary escape from tragedy.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the students, staff, and parents of Sandy Hook Elementary.
A year ago, the Crossroads Classic was started to pit the major basketball schools against each other. Indiana, Purdue, Butler, and Notre Dame would all face each other. In the event last season, IU beat Notre Dame 69-58 and Butler knocked off Purdue 67-65.
The Hoosiers (9-0) are not all that different of a team than they were last season, Butler (7-2) on the other hand has gotten better.
The Bulldogs first loss came against Xavier in the form of a beat down, 62-47. It was their second game of the season and Butler had a horrendous scoring night, connecting on just 36 percent of its field goals. After knocking off UNC in the Maui Invitational, they lost to Illinois 78-61.
We can continue to talk about how IU has the best offense in the country and a top ten defense, but you already know all about that. We've also talked about Pomeroy Ratings, Indiana is number one, and they have Butler ranked 56th (52nd on offense and 86th on defense).
Butler has never beaten a No. 1 ranked team.
Both are fantastic coaches and motivators. Crean definitely gets the edge as far as recruiting goes. Stevens, and Purdue's Curtis Painter, benefited from Indiana's down years and therefore ended up with some of the best players in the state. As important as coaching is, you still have to have the players to get the job done. If you don't think so, look at IU before and after Cody Zeller got there or Purdue with and without Robbie Hummel.
I tend to side with Crean being the better overall coach, but have all kinds of respect for Stevens and what he has done for Butler.
Senior Rontei Clark leads the Bulldogs this season. He is a transfer from Arkansas and is scoring 17.3 points per game. Freshman Kellen Dunham has shown flashes of being an excellent player, and a very prototypical Butler guy, but has been inconsistent. If Dunham is hitting his shots he is exceptional, if not he is terrible (like, 1-for-11 bad).
In order for Butler to pull off the upset, they will have to keep the game in the half court. The Bulldogs have the monumental task of attempting to slow down the lightning pace that Indiana likes to run. Butler can't match the Hoosiers depth, which will be greatly improved with Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin coming back from suspension.
The return of these two players give Indiana what could be considered unnecessary depth. They have been exceptional without them and it might be a bigger issue trying to figure out how they fit into the game plan.
Cody Zeller will have another big game. Butler's center Andrew Smith is solid but lacks the physicality of Zeller. He is also they only one who can reasonably go one-on-one with Zeller. Smith is 6-11 and the next closest players are just 6-8.
This is also the type of game that Jordan Hulls produces big minutes for. He has recently been called the best offensive role player in the country, and I can't disagree. He is having an amazing season and tomorrow won't be an exception.
This will be the Hoosiers last test before the Big Ten season starts. There is no reason to think that Indiana's momentum will stop tomorrow afternoon. While it might not be an easy win, IU's depth and talent should be the difference maker.
Don't forget to follow us on twitter, @hoosiers101 where we will be live tweeting the game.Tags: Brad Stevens, Bulldogs, Butler, Cody Zeller, Indiana, Indiana Hoosiers, Jordan Hulls, NCAA, Tom Crean