The Butler Bulldogs and the Seton Hall Pirates meet in college basketball action from Prudential Center on Wednesday.
The Bulldogs enter this game at 19-7 so far. The Bulldogs are 2-3 in their last five, beating Villanova and Xavier while falling to Providence, Marquette and Georgetown otherwise.
In the loss to the Hoyas, Butler’s Kamar Baldwin led the way on 17 points with six rebounds and six assists. Jordan Tucker added 16 points and five boards there, and Sean McDermott had 12 points with seven rebounds.
Over on the Seton Hall side, they’re 18-7 this year. After winning consecutive games over Georgetown and Villanova, the Pirates have lost their last two to Creighton and Providence.
In the loss to the Friars, Seton Hall’s Myles Powell led the team on 27 points with four assists and two rebounds. Quincy McKnight added 14 points there, and Jared Rhoden had 10 points and eight rebounds.
The underdog is 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings between these teams, and the road team is 6-2 ATS in the last eight meetings. Butler is 19-32 ATS against conference opponents over the last three seasons and 1-10 ATS revenging a home loss versos an opponent over the last three seasons.
Seton Hall is 5-1 ATS versus Butler over the last three seasons and 4-2 straight up versus Butler over the last three seasons. Four of six games in this series have gone over in the last three seasons as well.
It’s been a choppy road for Butler lately, but to their credit they’ve also faced some tough competition. The Bulldogs weren’t close in the last Marquette game, but the win over Villanova was good. That said, you never really know what you’re going to get from Butler these days.
In any event, Seton Hall was close in both their last two losses, and they should play well in a comfortable atmosphere here. I’m going to take the Pirates on the cover, but this one could get dicey.
Earlier this month, Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo used part of a press conference to address fans who were abusing his players on Twitter.
“It’s despicable some of the things that have gone out there about some of our guys that have given more to this program than most of those alums or most of those people sitting behind a chicken keyboard,” he said.
A few days later, Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell expressed exasperation about the things people were messaging his players after back-to-back losses.
“People expect these kids to play well every single night,” Pikiell said. “I don’t know anyone who does that . . . These kids aren’t pros.”
Trolls infect all walks of social media, but the problem is particularly acute in college sports — where amateur, often-teenage athletes are performing on a highly exposed stage. Too many people are teeing off on them, and it’s becoming a major mental health issue.
After Seton Hall got upset at Providence Saturday night, a troll tweeted a disparaging attack at Pirates reserve Shavar Reynolds, saying “you may be one of the worst players in D1.”
A Manchester High School alum, Reynolds was has been one of the team’s most valuable subs and posted a pretty good line for the game: five points on two shots, one steal and no turnovers in 12 minutes. More on that shortly.
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The troll used what has been determined to be a stolen profile photo, and might have been using a fake name as well, but the account listed a real email address, which I contacted with a question for the record: What compelled you to do this? I sent along the link to Izzo’s aforementioned press conference.
The Twitter account has since been deleted, but here is the answer I received, slightly abridged for brevity purposes:
First of all, I am not a Seton Hall fan. I am a fan of the game of basketball and an avid sports bettor. To be honest with you, I could’ve been a lot ruder in my tweet earlier, but decided to go easy on the kid and express disappointment rather than hatred.”
“Secondly, as a player in a national spotlight such as basketball players at Michigan State or players in D1 basketball in general, you need to have thicker skin than to get personally offended by people trolling you or making rude statements on Twitter. . . The players don’t need to be on Twitter, and they certainly don’t need to interact with fans, so being offended at rude mentions is quite ridiculous.”
The troll, who identified himself as Steve Kowalski, seemed incredulous that people would take umbrage with his tweet. I explained Reynolds’ inspiring backstory, how he was a walk-on who got upgraded to scholarship, and how his father is a U.S. Navy chief serving overseas. Then I pressed the question: Why did you do this?
The reply: “Him and the entire SHU team choking cost me a wager, as they have many times in the past. I don’t feel my tweet was overly rude or overly dramatic, especially not to the extent that you or the SHU fanbase seems to think it is.
With Villanova’s Collin Gillespie trying to guard him with the clock running out and the game tied at 76, the senior completely fooled his defender and launched a three-pointer off a nasty step-back that had Gillespie out of reach, propelling Butler to a 79-76 victory over the No. 10 Wildcats.
The victory comes days after the Bulldogs suffered a stunning upset at home against Providence on Saturday. That was just one part of a day that saw the Big East race thrown into chaos with then-No. 10 Seton Hall and then-No. 8 Villanova also falling to unranked teams, respectively. Wednesday’s result helped rectify the stumble as Butler entered the night three games back of Seton Hall for first place. The Wildcats were just one game back.
Now the race for the conference title is back on in a big way.
Butler and Villanova weathered a 13-minute rain delay when the roof at Hinkle Fieldhouse sprung a leak as a winter storm raged outside. The game was played under threat of postponement if Butler officials couldn’t stop water from dripping onto the court.
The Bulldogs have every reason to feel grateful that wasn’t the case as they move to 18-5 (6-4 Big East) on the year.
Arguably no player in college basketball has been able to put a team on his back the way Baldwin has carried Butler this season. Never was that more true than in the final few minutes against Villanova.
The Bulldogs held a 10-point lead with less than six minutes to play when the Wildcats began a comeback bid led by forward Saddiq Bey. The sophomore nailed three three-pointers in the last 4:30 to even things up at 76 apiece with just 30 seconds left. Just when it seemed like Villanova had all the momentum, Baldwin took the ball to the right wing in front of his bench and went to work on Gillespie while the clock wound down.
With four seconds left, Baldwin used a jab-step to push Gillespie back twice, using the second to lurch into a step-back three-pointer that left his hands with 1.5 seconds on the clock. At that point, Gillespie had lost his man and given Baldwin a clear look at the rim.
Gillespie had been the catalyst behind Villanova’s offense all night, distributing the ball and scoring at will when needed. He hit one three-pointer to start the Nova comeback and assisted on the three triples that followed.
Now he was helpless as Baldwin’s shot hung in the air. Already, Baldwin had mystified Wildcats head coach Jay Wright to the point that the famously well-dressed coach began to unbutton his coat and tear into his team. Even following his directions, there was nothing more Nova could do.
Baldwin’s shot fell as the clock hit zero, handing the Wildcats (17-5, 7-3 Big East) a second consecutive loss for the first time all year.
Butler is slicing up Villanova’s defense to the point that Jay Wright unbuttoned his suit coat (!), called timeout and F-bombed one of his players out of the lineup. Bulldogs lead 63-57 with 7 minutes left.
All season long, Butler has looked for scoring depth to complement Baldwin. The search was hindered by season-ending ACL injuries to forward Christian David and guard Campbell Donovan, as well as a wrist injury that held guard Aaron Thompson out of the last three games.
Thompson returned Wednesday, posting nine points, two assists and one rebound, but two other starters—Sean McDermott and Bryce Golden—stepped up to provide additional offense.