For all of that and more we caught up with Big East Coast Bias' Michael Murtaugh.
Full Q&A below:
SOTU: PG Tyler Lewis is a name UM and ACC fans are familiar with from his days in the conference with N.C. State. How good has he been so far for Butler?
BECB: It’s hard to describe how much Lewis has already brought to the Bulldog lineup, and while the team has seen some great talent at point guard over the last few years, Lewis is the most gifted passer of the bunch. There’s a smart tenacity to his game that’s already rubbing off on the rest of the team, and the quick ball movement Lewis brings has opened up the whole floor for his teammates. He’s been much more of an impact scorer than anticipated (he didn’t even register an assist against Temple on Friday en route to 16 points), and for a team that has struggled to score consistently over the last few years. Lewis is a real special player.
SOTU: The Bulldogs can obviously score. Who are some of their other key players for Miami fans to watch out for?
BECB: Lewis may be the flashy new guy, but this team still belongs to seniors Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones. Dunham, who’s averaging 17 points per game this season, is a special three-point shooter (despite shooting just 26.1 percent from behind the arc to start the season) and is potentially the most talented scorer in the Big East today. Jones, a guard-forward combo, has seen his role change up a bit this season after serving as the team’s de-facto point guard in a lot of sets last year while Lewis sat out due to NCAA transfer rules. While his scoring load may not be as heavy, Jones is averaging a double-double through three games (12 points and 10.7 rebounds per so he’s finding other ways to make an impact with his unique size and skill set.
SOTU: Which players/match-ups on Miami do you expect to be the most troublesome for Butler?
BECB: Butler’s weakest position is down low, where the Bulldogs lack a true big man when facing bigger teams. Junior Andrew Chrabascz has slid over more to the four this year, which helps spread the floor, so sophomore Tyler Wideman will probably be tasked with guarding 7-footer Tonye Jekiri. If Jekiri finds some space, he may be able to feast down low on the smaller Butler lineup. Across the board, the Hurricanes probably have the advantage from an athleticism standpoint, so if the Bulldogs struggle to dictate the pace, they may have a hard time keeping up.
SOTU: On an unrelated note, I grew up in N.J. watching classic Big East Basketball featuring Thompson (the original), Boeheim, Carlesimo, and Massimino among others. While some of the programs are the same, the landscape of this conference is certainly different. Tell me about the BE's role in the current College Hoops climate. Can this conference dominate again, or are those days a thing of the past?
BECB: Unfortunately, a lot of the big-name schools moved on a few years ago, but the conference is probably characterized a lot more now for it’s mid-major toughness. There are still great coaches across the conference in Villanova’s Jay Wright, Butler’s Chris Holtmann, Providence’s Ed Cooley, Georgetown’s John Thompson III and Xavier’s Chris Mack, and while the flashy names are gone, this is still a great basketball conference. Villanova was a No. 2 seed in the tournament last year, and Providence has one of the best players in the country in point guard Kris Dunn. I wouldn’t say the dominant days of the past are gone, but it’s just different now.
SOTU: Who wins the Big East this year and why? How many of its' teams make the field of 68?
BECB: Villanova is the safe pick again this year. They’ve got an awesome freshman class and some talented guys stepping into bigger roles, so there’s no reason to think that they won’t run through the conference again, but Butler, Georgetown and Xavier will be in the mix too. I’m predicting the conference will put five teams in the tournament: Villanova, Butler, Georgetown, Xavier and Providence (even if Dunn has to single-handedly drag them there himself).
SOTU: Okay back to the subject at hand. Who wins this contest for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Championship and how do you see this game playing out?
BECB: These are two teams with really distinctly different playing styles, so I can see this one going either way. However, if the Bulldogs can control the pace and handle things down low even with their size disadvantage, some strong performances from Dunham and Lewis should be enough to push them over the top. I don’t feel great about it, but I’ll say Butler wins this one 76-72.
While we certainly don't agree with his pick, we want to thank Michael for working with us. This should be a great game tonight. Be sure to head over to Big East Coast Bias for more on Butler and the rest of the BE.