GET BLUE HIS VICTORY TREATS!!!
Ok, now that the obvious is out of the way, let’s get into some key takeaways from this win over Yale.
Yale had absolutely no answer for Manny Bates. None. Bates was pretty good in the first half, but once that second half hit he hit a completely different level. He was just excellent yet again. Bates dominated this game inside, going 9/15 from the field with 22 points, and played just about the entire game.
For a center, that’s incredible. His conditioning has been possibly the biggest revelation for this team. Without his ability to consistently play 35+ minutes, this team could easily be 4-6. He’s been able to play big minutes in these games and play at a high level in those minutes, too. He’s still running up the floor with three minutes left on the clock. He doesn’t look like he’s slowing down. That’s incredible.
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me tweet about MMA a good bit. There’s no archetype of fighter that impresses me more than these guys who break you with their pace. These guys can keep you going at their pace, keep pressuring you and are just relentless. Khabib was the best at it. Colby Covington is excellent at it (I despise the gimmick though). These guys never, ever, ever quit, too. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Pace, cardio and pressure are something that just comes from hard work. Hours on hours pushing yourself in the gym. Wearing people down, because it isn’t like guys aren't trying to wear Bates down.
Yet instead, every single game Bates goes in knowing he’s going to get pushed around, hit with some cheap shots and have to play through it all. And he’s done it. It’s so impressive to me. Obviously fight cardio and basketball conditioning are two incredibly different things, but still, it will never cease to amaze me how these guys can keep going at such a high pace. Bates personifies this. His ability to keep at it, even when he’s getting knocked around, not getting calls and still move forward and even play better in the second half. That’s awesome. That’s been an incredibly underrated part of Bates’ season so far. I love guys who can go all forty minutes and give it everything they have (Jagan Mosely shoutout), and Bates deserves so much more praise for his conditioning than he gets. Credit to the S&C guys, credit to Manny Bates and everyone on the team too for pulling through and playing deep minutes.
Matt Knowling is Yale’s best player. If you are a Butler fan who didn't read my preview (you’re here now and that’s all that matters) or just a general CBB fan who watched this game and this was the only time you’ve seen Yale, you would have absolutely no idea. You might not even remember who he is. That’s how well Butler did guarding him. He was never able to find a rhythm during this game.
Butler gave him multiple looks, whether Thomas was on him, Hunter, Simas, doubles, denying him the ball, or really anything else, he was largely ineffective. That’s a huge credit to the Butler defense.
But, the defense on Knowling wasn't the only area where Butler was good. There’s more to a team than just one guy. For starters, Butler limited the number of threes Yale was able to take. Yale is typically a team that shoots 25 threes per game. They were only able to put up 20 against Butler, and weren't efficient from deep at all, making just six of those attempts. Butler limited and contested their three-point attempts.
Yale came into this game as one of the most efficient two-point offenses in the country. It’s where they were most effective. The Butler athletes were able to take Yale out of their sets and make them force some really tough shots. Entering this game, Yale shot 55.6% from inside the arc. Today? Under 50%, 19/40 (47.5%) from inside the arc.
Truly an excellent team defensive performance. Yale’s offense never really found a rhythm and a lot of credit has to go to the Butler defense.
I’ve tried to not be too hard on Simas since he’s very clearly playing out of position as a result of all of these injuries. He’s had some really rough games, but today wasn't one of those. Today he was excellent. Those two threes he hit at the end of this game were absolutely daggers through the chests of any Yale player/coach/fan. Yale built momentum and was about to come away with a huge stop, then step back BANG!
Yale comes down and scores, and seemingly still has a little bit of life. NOPE! BANGGGG! Ball game. Two huge shots. This is up there for his best game of the young season. He was able to play a role where he feels more natural. He was able to play more like a guard today than a PF, and he looked more comfortable. Hopefully, Butler can get healthier and Simas can get back to a role where he seems more comfortable. Because today he found that rhythm.
Home Court Advantage:
Man, this team is so much better at home. There’s just no other way to phrase it. The Penn State game is a very tough spot, but Penn State controlled most of that game. In Atlantis, it wasn't much better. That’s a BYU team that Butler is so much better than. BYU went back home and lost to South Dakota. NC State dominated Butler and looked so much better. You could argue fatigue, and I think that’s fair, but NC State looked excellent. And, of course, the Tennessee game.
At home, the Kansas State game was so much better than any major opponent other game this season. This Yale team is better than BYU. BYU was a perfect matchup in my mind, this one presented some challenges that Butler answered. Butler controlled this game from tip to finish. It was another very impressive performance.
Overall, I was impressed with this performance. It was “only” a ten-point win, but Butler controlled this game throughout. They’ve slowed the pace down these last couple of games and shown they can win in multiple ways. The half-court defense came to play tonight. This team looks ready. They look better than they did in Atlantis. They’ve played really well in their two home tests, against Kansas State and Yale. They’ve done enough to stay in contention for a tournament bid.
Yale’s defense coming into this one was nationally elite, and Butler put together a complete offensive performance, shooting 50% from both the field and from three-point range.
It wasn’t all perfect though, of course. Butler gave up nine offensive rebounds to Yale, Chuck Harris couldn’t find a rhythm and neither could Hunter. Both guys weren’t at their best.
Also, Pierce Thomas looks really uncomfortable at the free-throw line. I absolutely love his energy, but a guy like him who attacks with such reckless abandon has to feel a little more comfortable at the line. He’s going to be living there during his college career. He’s going to get better from the charity stripe, but 0/3 isn’t going to cut it in some of these tough, one-possession conference games.
Still, a win is a win and there are things the team can learn from. Overall, a performance from the team I really liked. This team has proved they can win ugly, even going all forty minutes with only six guys and pulling away late. That’s impressive. That’s something they’ve done throughout the season, and will seemingly continue to do all season long.
Next up, Butler faces Cal in Berkley. I’ve got some takes on this one I’ve been saving up since the offseason. See you then.