In The Paint's All-American Hoops Blog

At 6-8, Butler wing Gordon Hayward is a difficult matchup.

1. Davidson must win its conference tournament to go to the NCAAs. Stephen Curry clearly wasn't at his best against Butler, missing his first eight shots and struggling to a 6-for-23 afternoon in Davidson's 75-63 loss (RECAP | BOX). The Wildcats missed another opportunity for a quality win, dropping to 1-4 against teams in the RPI top 50. Davidson's RPI was 56 entering Saturday and will likely drop into the 60s. Three more regular season games against UNCG (No. 319), Georgia Southern (No. 291) and Elon (No. 253) are going to drop that RPI further even with wins. CBS will be pulling hard for the Wildcats to win three straight at the Southern Conference in Chattanooga on March 7-9.

2. Butler does not. There were slight murmurs about Butler limping to the finish after two straight Horizon losses, but there is not one major conference team that wants to see Butler in its bracket on Selection Sunday. They don't look impressive athletically, but the Bulldogs spread the floor brilliantly, have multiple three-point threats and play grit-your-teeth defense that never takes a possession off. Freshman Gordon Hayward is a difficult matchup as a 6-foot-8 perimeter player, and sophomore Matt Howard is nasty in the post. Butler will be in the tournament again, and will be a royal pain in the you-know-what again to whoever they match up against (ask Bruce Pearl what he thought of watching Butler take his Vols to OT last year in the second round).

3. St. Mary's has found a (temporary) replacement for Patrick Mills. Sophomore Michey McConnell started his fourth straight game in place of the talented Mills, and the Gaels are 3-1 with only a two-point loss to Gonzaga in that span. McConnell scored a career-high 22 points in St. Mary's critical 75-64 win over WAC-leader Utah State on Saturday. McConnell is 7-for-11 from three in the last four games, taking advantage of the attention paid to St. Mary's tough frontcourt duo of Omar Samhan and Diamon Simpson. Mills is expected to return for the WCC tournament, and McConnell's stellar fill-in play may get the Gaels a bid even if they fail to beat Gonzaga in the WCC tournament. St. Mary's improved to 22-5 and its RPI of 61 will climb.

4. Vermont would be a good Cinderella pick for your office pool. The Catamounts have quietly won 13 of 14 to move into first in the America East, and showed they could go out of conference quiet nicely with a 78-70 win over surprising MAC favorite Buffalo. Senior Mike Trimboli is a quality point guard, and Marqus Blakely is an athletic beast in the paint who leads the conference in blocks and steals and is second in rebounding. Vermont shoots the three well, generally takes care of the ball and didn't panic despite a 19-6 early deficit against the Bulls.

5. Things are down in the Valley. After nine straight years of getting multiple NCAA bids from 1999-2007, the Missouri Valley Conference is looking like a one-bid league for the second consecutive season unless Creighton can somehow sneak in. The Bluejays helped themselves with a home win over George Mason, but the other two league contenders -- Illinois State and Northern Iowa -- both lost over the weekend to MAAC teams, hurting the league's overall perception.



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