January 4, 2008 1:38 pm ET by Kyle Whelliston
Valparaiso at Butler (Horizon League)
Hinkle Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, IN
2:00 PM EST
January means snow, overwhelming holiday-related credit card bills, the active avoidance of NFL scores and conference basketball. And we have a real March-quality matchup already on the 5th of the month, between two teams that should be jostling for the Horizon League one-seed all winter long.
You know all about Butler (12-1, 1-1), how they're nationally ranked and real good and all that. The personnel might have slightly changed since the Sweet 16 run, but the Butler brand has stayed steadfast: make up rebounding deficiencies with extremely fastidious ball control (10.7 turnovers per game, No. 3 nationally) and extraordinarily good 3-point shooting and 3-point defense. We're running out of players to say nice things about, so, ummm... how about the year Drew Streicher is having? He's on the floor pretty much the whole time, with virtually no stats (5.5 rpg and 2.2 rpg). Then in the press conference the opposing coach talks about what a great game Streicher had. Defense and proper positioning... it's the Butler way, baby.
Valpo (11-3, 2-0) is the "new kid in town," just like that old Eagles song they're always playing in truck stops. This is their first year in the Horizon League, and they already swept their first conference road weekend at Detroit and Wright State. They can shoot the 3 a little too, with senior guard Jarryd Loyd making over 51 percent of his attempts. He hit five in the Crusaders' 90-58 loss at North Carolina, which in general showed the kind of heart this team has. Down 19-4 early, Valpo fought back to pull it close by halftime, but that's when the Heels' counteradjustments kicked in. Few teams at this level are good enough to even make the initial adjustments, which makes Valpo a serious threat to Butler's regular-season crown. As A.J. Graves might say, "I don't want to hear it."
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