I know EXACTLY how Butler University's head men's basketball coach Brad Stevens is feeling right now. Okay, not exactly, but I'm in the fieldhouse.
The day started off well for me. Went to work, got a few things done and got ready to watch my Butler Bulldogs square off against #7 Louisville Cardinals at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Then came the figurative halftime of my day...
Much like the Bulldogs, after the break my day never really was the same. I couldn't access ESPN3 to watch the game, I spilled my game-time beverage and had to resort to watching the game log roll by on my iPhone screen.
This must be how the entire Butler crew is feeling after a disappointing 69-53 loss to the short-handed Cardinals in front of a 9,000-plus Hinkle crowd.
Even Butler junior Chase Stigall tweeted this morning that the team was "super hyped" for this matchup. What happened?
In my professional, game-log-browsing analysis. Halftime, that's what happened.
The Dawgs were never able to really get into a good offensive flow during the first half and were down just 29-28. But the second half consisted of absolutely zero offensive cohesion.
The first half was really how I was expecting the game to go. Dominated by defense, a slow pace and holding the Cardinals to points in the paint (which Louisville did very well in both halves).
Unfortunately for the Dawgs, Cardinal sharp-shooter Kyle Kuric picked up the slack of injured leader Peyton Siva, and Chris Smith added to BU's second half woes by scoring all but two of his 15 points in the second frame.
Sophomore Khyle Marshall paced the Dawgs with 20 points and six boards and the aforementioned Stigall kicked in 11 points...in the first half.
The two halves appeared to be exact opposites in the eyes of this Butler fan. And I'm wondering if that's what all the Bulldogs feel tonight.
Essentially Marshall and Stigall were the two starters who showed up M.I.A in the first two games for Butler and thankfully were able to take the lid of the bucket today. But the previous two game's leaders, sophomore Chrishawn Hopkins and junior Andrew Smith went off grid and could have easily kicked in more offense than their respective four points each.
Going into this year, I assumed this wasn't going to be a strong shooting time like the A.J. Graves, Pete Campbell, Bruce Horan and Brandon Crone teams of yesteryear. But no one could have envisioned the two top shooters in the starting five (Hopkins and Stigall) shooting 33% and 29% through the first three games.
This team has amazing potential and it may be somewhat similar to the 2008-2009 team that lost to LSU in the first round of the NCAA tournament. There will be bumps in the road, and the wins Butler does pick up will be the hard-fought, 59-57 defensive struggles that coach Stevens loves.
But after today's loss, all I can think about is "what if".
What if Smith and Hopkins could have scored in double-digits?
What if Hopkins' first half heave at the buzzer would have gone in? Putting the Dawgs up two going to the locker room.
What if Butler still had a guy by the name of Mack in uniform besides unemployed in the stands?
This may be a season of "what if's" for Bulldog Nation.
And unless coach Stevens can get this group of "kids with huge upsides" together in a hurry, there's going to be one ugly non-conference record waiting for the Horizon League favorite come conference play.