#11 Villanova Wildcats (13-2) vs. #18 Butler Bulldogs (12-3)
When: Sunday, January 10, 2016, at 7 p.m.
Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
Butler’s Previous Season Record: 23-11, Lost in Round of 32 of NCAA Tournament to Notre Dame
Key Players for Butler: #24 Kellen Dunham (6-6, 200) Sr., G; #21 Roosevelt Jones (6-4, 225) Sr., G; Kelan Martin (6-6, 235) So., F
Scouting Report: Villanova will go into Hinkle Fieldhouse tomorrow looking to crack the top 10 and earn its fourth Big East win of the year. They will go up against a high-octane Bulldogs team, that has been an offensive juggernaut for most of this season. Butler will look to avoid its third Big East loss in four games, as they dropped games to Providence and Xavier previously. Last year, Villanova beat Butler in both of their match ups.
The main ingredient in Butler’s recipe for success is it’s high-powered offensive attack. At 86.5 points per game, the Bulldogs are the seventh highest scoring team in the country. Their deadly efficiency drives this scoring. Butler shoots just under 50% from the field, making them the 18th most efficient team in the country. The Bulldogs also don’t mind sharing the pumpkin – four Bulldogs average more than 12 points per game, and the team ranks in the top 50 in assists per game. In it’s season opener, Butler scored 144 points against the Citadel.
Roosevelt Jones may be the most unique player in the Big East. At 6-foot-4, he is not your run of the mill power forward. In fact, his stocky frame makes Jones look a lot more like a fullback than a basketball player. Despite being severely undersized, Jones has managed to remain very effective throughout his collegiate career. Jones has been a key piece for Butler this year, leading the team in minutes, rebounds, assists, and steals. Very few big men can handle the ball like Jones, and he is great on finishing coast-to-coast drives. Jones doesn’t get off the floor very well, but that doesn’t stop him from snatching 2.5 offensive rebounds per game. He is a master at using his wide frame and strong lower body to gain position underneath the glass and to create space. Jones has attempted only one three in his time at Butler, but he does possess a crafty floater that he almost pushes rather than shoots. Keep an eye on Jones in the high post. However, a sprained left wrist might keep him on the bench for Sunday night’s game. He sustained the injury in practice and sat out on Friday, his status is unknown for now and is listed as questionable for the game.
Kelan Martin and Andrew Chrabascz are two more do it all players for the Bulldogs. Chrabascz, similar to Jones, is an undersized and unconventional big. He packs 235 pounds onto his 6-foot-7 frame, but also has terrific touch from the charity stripe, and has even connected on nine three-pointers this year. He also accumulates 1.3 steals per game. Martin is second on the team in points and rebounds. He has also expanded is range, and is connecting on nearly 42% of his three point attempts. Kellen Dunham is a sharpshooting guard who leads the team in scoring and three-pointers made. The senior has actually seen a slight dip in production this year, which can be attributed to his shooting slump that hindered him for most of December. When he’s shooting well, he is dangerous and is often the heart and soul of offensive series. Tyler Wideman has been a force in the middle for Butler, averaging 5.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.
Despite their offensive prowess, the Bulldogs have some eye-popping shortcomings. They are just an average rebounding team, averaging just over 38 team rebounds per game (slightly ahead of Villanova). Butler also surrenders 71.4 points per game to opponents, making it a lackluster at best defensive team.
Outlook: I think Villanova has a clear upper hand in this tilt. The Wildcats have looked stellar in Big East play so far, and are on a roll after some early season mishaps. The ‘Cats remain a top ten defensive team, barely giving up 60 points per game, and have been very efficient on the offensive end, boasting a 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio. The three-point shooting is still shaking and overused, but good defense can make up for a lot of sins. Daniel Ochefu is coming off another strong performance against Seton Hall and should be primed for another big night in a game in which he will be the tallest player on the floor. Villanova holds all of the major distinctive advantages and should be able to pull off a victory.
Give me the ‘Cats by double digits, cruising into three easy match ups against Marquette, Georgetown, and a rematch with Seton Hall at 14-2.