A Philly treat: A chance to get a firsthand look at Butler, Stevens

Posted: January 09, 2013

WHEN ZACK Rosen's college career ended last March after Butler beat Penn in the CBI at the Palestra, I asked Rosen what the Bulldogs had done differently to defend him than other teams he had played during the season.

In addition to being one of my favorite people to talk to in a quarter century of covering college basketball in this town, Rosen is also among the most analytical. He played the game with a coach's eye for detail. He immediately went off on a riff about how the Bulldogs played the ball screens that were the essence of the Penn offense, used to take advantage of a once-in-a-generation point guard's penchant for making the right decision. Rosen said he was not exactly sure of everything that Butler was doing during the game, but knew it was effective.

I asked him if he wanted to talk to Butler coach Brad Stevens about it. One of the best and most approachable coaches in America, Stevens was more than happy to discuss what it was his team was doing during the game and why. While they were talking behind the stands, I eavesdropped, understanding some of the jargon, but definitely getting lost as they got deeper into the nuances of ball-screen defense. The tone was one of respect, just two people talking about the game they love.

Not long after that night, Rosen got a note from Stevens. Zack texted me a copy. I was going to read it the night when I presented him with the Geasey Award as 2011-12 Big 5 Player of the Year, but, after I suggested he may well have been the player most important to his team's success in Big 5 history, it was time for Zack to talk.

Here is the text of the text:

"Zack: It was a pleasure speaking with you after the game. As I told you, you're a terrific player - and now I know why. Keep doing what you do - I look forward to following your success. Best wishes, Brad Stevens.''

Stevens has his team on Hawk Hill for Butler's Atlantic 10 debut Wednesday night. This is a game Saint Joseph's really needs to win and that certainly matters on some level. But having Butler and Stevens in the A-10 is really a treat for everybody in this city that loves the game. Brad's team plays so elegantly and with such passion because that is how he teaches it. It is never about him. It is always about them. And it shows in how they play.

If you miss Butler at St Joe's, you can catch the Bulldogs when they are back here in 2 weeks to play La Salle at Gola. If you are fortunate to see both games, you will see how Butler plays against a huge frontline and then against a team that will often play four guards.

Somewhere in Israel, where he is playing professionally, I can just imagine Rosen watching those games on his laptop just as he may have found a way to see Penn at Butler on Jan. 2. Stevens only talked to Rosen for a few minutes, but his message got it just right.

Penn/Princeton connection

Ten Penn and Princeton graduates are head coaches, nearly 3 percent of all Division I coaches.

The Penn grads are Jerome Allen (Penn), Matt Langel (Colgate), Andy Toole (Robert Morris) and Fran McCaffery (Iowa). The Princeton grads are Mitch Henderson (Princeton), Sydney Johnson (Fairfield), Chris Mooney (Richmond), Craig Robinson (Oregon State), Chris Mooney (Richmond) and Joe Scott (Denver).

In their primes, that would have been a 10-man team that would win a lot of games. Maybe we could get a reunion game together in 4 years when the perfect coach would have a bit more time. That would be Robinson's brother-in-law, President Obama.

The players suit

Not sure what is going to happen with Gov. Corbett's lawsuit against the NCAA, but Ed O'Bannon's suit against the NCAA is getting closer to trial.

O'Bannon, the star of UCLA's 1995 national champions, is part of a class-action lawsuit that suggests that former players should be compensated for the NCAA's use of their name and likeness.

The fascinating part of the suit will be how a court might look at those video-game characters that are clearly modeled after college players, but with the names removed.

Not much for an advertisement

If I were the Catholic Seven, I would misplace the DVD of Saturday's Marquette-Georgetown game when trying to hustle up TV partners. Marquette won, 49-48. The teams combined to miss 56 of 90 shots. It was as bad as it sounds.

The idea of this proposed new league is interesting. Just wonder if the idea is going to be better than the reality. The good news is that a new television sports network starts up every week and they need programming. So the new league may be forming at a very good time for maximizing television revenue.

Deceiving records

Non-conference records in a vacuum tell very little. Close examination is necessary.

Duke is not only No. 1, it has played the nation's toughest schedule.

Heading into conference play, Maryland, Charlotte, Georgia Tech, Tulane, Oregon State and Clemson had combined records of 66-15. Their schedule strengths were between 290 and 330. The real identities of these teams are about to be revealed.

Locally, Temple (62), Saint Joseph's (79), Villanova (104) and La Salle (131) all have played good to decent strength of schedules. Their actual RPI numbers are Temple (28), La Salle (51), SJU (61) and Villanova (83).

This and that * 

Missouri was a new-school team last season, often playing with four guards and shooting threes from everywhere. Now, the Tigers are more of an old-school power team, completely remade with transfers playing key roles. Last season's team was a revelation in the Big 12. Got to think this season's team is going to be a major factor in the SEC that does not go very deep beyond Florida and Kentucky.

* The Big Ten has a reputation of playing stodgy basketball. No more, at least up to this point. Entering conference play, six teams (Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota) were averaging more than 75 points per game. Now, some of that is a product of playing no-chance opponents at home so it will be interesting to watch the scores come down now that they are playing, as they certainly will, in conference.

* Bruce Weber's two teams are 26-4. That would be his old team, Illinois, and his new team, Kansas State.

* Remember all the hype about ULCA freshman Shabazz Muhammad. Looks like it was well-deserved. He sat out the first three games because of an NCAA situation. UCLA went 2-3 in his first five games, including a loss to Cal Poly. Since then, the Bruins have won seven straight. Muhammad has scored 16, 25, 21, 27, 27, 16 and 23 in those games. On the season, he averages 19.6 points on 49.1 percent shooting. He is shooting 48.6 percent from three and 75.9 percent from the foul line.

Email: jerardd@phillynews.com

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