Kamar Baldwin takes a shot against Morehead State on Nov. 22. Baldwin scored 13 points against Missouri in the Hall of Fame Classic. Chandler Hart / Collegian file photo.
JOSH MULLENIX | SPORTS EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
For the first time since 2016, the Butler men’s basketball team is competing for a Feast Week tournament title. The Bulldogs defeated Missouri 63-52 in the first round of the Hall of Fame Classic and will take on the Stanford Cardinal — who beat Oklahoma 73-54 — in the championship game. Here’s what you need to know:
Who: Butler vs. Stanford
When: Nov. 26, 9:30 p.m. EST
Where: Sprint Center, Kansas City, Missouri
How to watch/listen: ESPN2 / 93.5 FM/107.5 FM/1070 AM
1. Butler will have its hands full with freshman guard Tyrell Terry.
In the first six games of his college career, Tyrell Terry has been a stat stuffer for the Cardinal. The No. 10 point guard in the class of 2019, according to 247Sports, is averaging 15.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists. He’s just short of the 50/40/90 club, shooting 50% from the field, 40% from deep and 87% from the free-throw line. In his last two games, Terry has two 20-point, 10-rebound double-doubles and he can light it up in a hurry. In Stanford’s Hall of Fame Classic semifinal against Oklahoma, Terry had 16 points at halftime.
This is certainly the most explosive guard the Bulldogs have seen so far this season. Aaron Thompson has been nothing short of phenomenal defensively, but he will have his hands full against the freshman from Minnesota. On the defensive end, Terry is tied for 16th in the country in steals per game, averaging 2.67 per contest. The freshman has been very consistent so far this season and will be a challenge for Butler’s backcourt.
2. This is the best offense Butler has played this season.
Butler has been nothing short of spectacular on defense this season. The Bulldogs rank eighth in the country allowing just 53.2 points per game and fifth in the country in 3-point defense — opponents are shooting just 23% against Butler. With that being said, Stanford is easily the best offensive team Butler has played so far. They rank inside the top 100 in points per game at 77.3 and they are 10th in 3-point shooting. Three different Stanford players shooting better than 40% from beyond the arc led by freshman Spencer Jones who has made an incredible 21 of his 40 3-point attempts this season.
Admittedly, Butler’s offense has been slightly below average at times as they rank outside the top 175 nationally in points per game — even though they rank 23rd in the country in points per possession. Through six games, it hasn’t mattered due to Butler’s defense. The first time Butler played a good 3-point shooting team in Wofford, they held the Terriers to under 20% from beyond the arc. There is no reason to suggest the Butler defense won’t be able to guard the Cardinal, but they will certainly be tested in the Hall of Fame Classic championship.
3. Both teams have exceeded expectations early in the season.
Butler and Stanford have played a combined 13 games this season. They’ve won all 13. In preseason rankings, the Bulldogs were picked to finish eighth in the Big East and the Cardinal was picked to finish 10th in the Pac 12. While the competition hasn’t been stellar for either team, the Bulldogs have only trailed in 5.8% of the minutes they’ve played this season and have two wins over Power 5 opponents. The Cardinal have won all seven of their games by double digits and dominated an Oklahoma team that entered the Hall of Fame Classic with wins over Oregon State and Minnesota. These two teams have been more impressive than anyone thought they would be, but one of them will get their first blemish on their so-far perfect records.
Butler currently sits in 20th according to KenPom‘s rankings. They are 21st in AdjO and 26th in AdjD. After receiving votes in this week’s AP Top 25, a win over the Cardinal and a Hall of Fame Classic title will probably land the Bulldogs in the top 25 for the first time since the 2016-17 season. The last time Butler won a Thanksgiving week tournament, they went to the Sweet 16.