Quick Takes: Baylor, Butler off to fast starts
Among a host of other teams, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Baylor or Butler entering the 2016-17 season. Both teams had lost key contributors from a year ago; senior leaders who had helped defined their teams. Now, two weeks into the season, Baylor and Butler have exceeded early expectations. Baylor won the Battle 4 Atlantis by beating VCU, Michigan State, and Louisville. The Bears also have a home win over Oregon. As for Butler, the Bulldogs won the Las Vegas Invitational by beating Arizona Friday night. Their other two notable wins are Northwestern and Vanderbilt. I’m not sure Butler is a Top 25-type team (yet), but they certainly look better than a bubble group.
Here are a few more Quick Takes from Thursday and Friday …
- Virginia’s defense is a good as ever, which means the Cavaliers will again be a tough out in the ACC. UVA held Iowa to 41 points in Niceville, FL after the Hawkeyes were averaging 96 points a game through their first four, including 83 in a loss at home to Seton Hall.
- Temple has had a wild two weeks. After back-to-back losses to New Hampshire and Massachusetts, the Owls tore through Florida State and West Virginia to claim the NIT Season Tip-Off in Brooklyn. Not sure what that means; it’s still early. College hoops can be unpredictable.
- USC is a little better than I thought they might be. They backed up a win at Texas AM by beating a solid SMU outfit on Friday.
- Granted, their schedule has not been overwhelming, but Minnesota is unbeaten. The Golden Gophers have wins over St. John’s and Arkansas. We’ll know more after their ACC-Big Ten tilt in Tallahassee.
- Elsewhere in the Big Ten, Illinois is off to another rough start. After blowing a late double-digit lead against Winthrop at home, the Illini were blown out by West Virginia and then beaten by Florida State (both in Brooklyn). Coach John Groce has a solid class arriving in 2017, but the heat is building in Champaign.
- Nebraska split its games against Dayton (win) and UCLA (loss) out west. We’ll see if that means anything.
- I went back-and-forth about Wichita State prior to the season. After moving up the Shockers (Seed List) on Thursday, they lost back-to-back games to Louisville and Michigan State. Neither are bad of course, but WSU could well be a middle seed type of team (was a 10-seed in preseason bracket). December games with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will be important.
- Speaking of Louisville, the loss to Baylor was a bit surprising, especially after holding a solid lead. But this is a work in progress for coach Rick Pitino. It should be a group that gets better in January and February.
Enjoy your Saturday.