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Butler drops No. 9 North Carolina in the Maui Invitational

Nov 20, 2012, 10:26 PM EDT

Marcus Paige, Rotnei Clarke

It was exactly one week ago that we all decided that we might need to hedge our bets on Butler being the best team in the Atlantic 10.

Last Tuesday, during ESPN’s Marathon Madness, the Bulldogs turned in a clunker of a performance against Xavier, going into the Cintas Center and leaving with a 62-47 loss. Keep in mind, this is a Musketeer team that is a long, long way from having the kind of talent that we’re used to seeing Chris Mack trot out there.

So imagine the collective national surprise when Butler beat the everloving Tar out of the Heels with an 82-71 win over No. 9 North Carolina in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational.

What changed in the last seven days?

Could it be as simple as Butler’s threes were falling against UNC (12-25 on threes) while nothing went in against the Muskies (4-18)?

That’s part of it, but much of the credit (blame?) for Butler’s three-point shooting can be spread around. The Bulldogs got a lot of wide-open looks, and when shooters like Rotnei Clarke and Kellen Dunham are getting wide-open looks, you are going to have a lot of nights where they end up making nine triples. It also should be noted that North Carolina defended Butler’s pick-and-roll only slightly better than the seven guys that write for CollegeBasketballTalk would have, while Xavier did a terrific job of the Bulldogs out of their rhythm. (This is something that I’m going to go back and watch some film on. Expect a more extensive post after Thanksgiving.)

Let’s put it like this: Butler is probably not as good as they looked against North Carolina and not as bad as they looked against Xavier. Split the difference; judge them based on the Marquette win?

It’s tough to take too much out of an early-season game, especially one that’s played all the way out in Maui, but I think it’s safe to say that North Carolina has some issues they need to work out. Marcus Paige isn’t bad, but he isn’t Kendall Marshall right now, and that’s hurting the Heels right now. Is James Michael McAdoo’s 10 point, four rebound, seven turnover performance indicative of what he’s going to do against quality competition? Where is UNC’s wing scoring going to come from?

I think UNC will eventually be a top 20 team come season’s end, if for no reason other than the fact that there are a lot of teams with a lot of question marks right now.

But this game is proof the Heels have a long way to grow.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

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