#1 Villanova Wildcats (23-3) vs. Butler Bulldogs (18-8)
When: Saturday, February 20, 2016, at 7 p.m.
Where: The Pavilion
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
Previous Meeting: Villanova won 60-55 at Butler on January 10
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: Butler’s Big East record is starting to reflect what its supposed to be. Once ranked in the Top 25, the Bulldogs had a tough start to conference play, going 2-5 to start. Since then, Butler has started to straighten itself out, now standing at an even 7-7 record. The Bulldogs have won four of their last five going into Saturday and will be looking to upset Villanova on its home court.
Butler averages just under 81 points per game, which gives them the 25th highest scoring offense on the nation and the best in the Big East. The Bulldogs use a pretty widespread attack also, with four different players averaging in double figures–Kelan Martin (16.2), Kellen Dunham (15.8), Roosevelt Jones (13.8), and Andrew Chrabascz (10.3).
Dunham seems to have passed the torch as the top scorer and offensive weapon for the Bulldogs to Martin. Martin, a sophomore, is enjoying a breakout year in his expanded role this season. His numbers have shot up from last year, going from 7.1 points per game to 16.2. The increase has carried over to his rebounding, tripling his production to 6.7 boards per game from 2.1. He’s a do-it-all type of player and his expanded range makes him a threat to score from anywhere on the floor, which is exactly how Butler likes it. He’s been a consistent source of production as of late, eclipsing double figures in nine out of the last 10 games. Martin went as high as 35 points against Georgetown on February 2.
That doesn’t take away anything from Dunham, whose numbers have slightly dropped from the last two seasons. Regardless, he’s still the top shooter on the team, leading in 3-pointers made. When he’s hot, he is a dangerous scorer. Dunham has been streaky as of late, with up and down performances in the last few games.
Moving to the front court, Jones is a bit undersized at 6-4, but he can still hang inside. He can finish inside and rebound well. Jones averages 13.8 points per game and a team-high 6.9 boards per game. For a forward that mainly plays inside, he can handle the ball well and is an excellent defender. He averages 4.5 dishes per game and 1.7 steals per game. Jones also has a nice finesse floater that makes him a good asset in the high post to complement his play around the basket.
Also keep an eye out for Chrabascz and Tyler Wideman, who are the main anchors in the middle. Chrabascz is a solid post defender, despite the fact that he doesn’t grab that many boards. Offensively, he has a nice shooting touch and can occasionally drain threes when given a chance. As for Wideman, he’s a force inside. He won’t score much but can chip in a few points here and there. He’s mainly used as a source of defense and rebounding.
Overall, as good of a team Butler is offensively, it isn’t as good on the defensive end of the court. The Bulldogs’ defense is not that impressive, sitting 130th in Division-I with 69.8 points per game.
Outlook: Villanova hasn’t lost at the Pavilion since 2013 and since starting conference play, Butler is 0-5 against ranked teams. The Bulldogs have been unable to beat Villanova, Xavier, and Providence, forcing them into this state of limbo. They’re able to beat up the weaker teams in the conference, but not the ranked top teams of the conference. While Providence will most likely fall out of the Top 25 after losing this week, the Bulldogs still haven’t been able to beat them. Last Saturday, the Bulldogs hosted #5 Xavier and the Musketeers won pretty comfortably.
The Wildcats are the favorite going into Saturday. They have the advantage in the front court with a bigger Daniel Ochefu, who has been playing very well since returning from his injury. Butler and Villanova each have solid production from their guards, but the interior play will be the deciding factor in this one. Butler doesn’t have the size to match, and I don’t think the game will be as close as it was at Hinkle Fieldhouse.