Jan 21, 2014; Providence, RI, USA; Butler Bulldogs forward Kameron Woods (31) celebrates with guard Alex Barlow (3) and guard Elijah Brown (5) during the first half of a game against the Providence Friars at Dunkin Donuts Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: St. John's Red Storm at Butler Bulldogs

The Butler Bulldogs have had an underwhelming season so far. The move to the Big East wasn’t a mistake, but it is proving more difficult than the program would care to admit.

Butler is 11-8 but holds a 1-6 conference record, the worst in the Big East. The Bulldogs have been in six overtimes games (2-4), so remaining competitive isn’t the issue. The problem lies in finishing games.

It’s been just a week since Butler notched their first conference win of the season. They were able to pull away from Marquette in overtime, but it shouldn’t have even come to that. Silly mistakes at the end of the game forced a tie (things like fouling 10-feet away from the three point line). Luckily the Bulldogs had enough left in the tank to eek out the home win.

Three nights later the Bulldogs were beaten by Providence on the road. Butler had plenty of chances to win this game, and kept it close until the final 10 minutes when the Friars started to generate a solid lead. Butler didn’t have much of a chance heading into this game, but the failures down the stretch are concerning.

The Bulldogs still rate well as a defensive team, but their offensive efficiency continues to drop. They lack a player who can take over a game and score in multiple ways. Kellen Dunham is great off screens and from the three point line, but he struggles to create his own shot. Khyle Marshall is good around the basket, but the Bulldogs struggle to get him the ball in the post. Marshall is also only 6-6, and often asked to post up larger players.

The loss of Roosevelt Jones before the season may have doomed this team too sub-mediocrity. Finding wins in the conference isn’t going to get any easier for the Bulldogs. Losing Brad Stevens to the NBA certainly didn’t help either, despite the solid coaching of Brandon Miller.

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St. John’s at Butler

Jan. 25th 4pm FSN

The Red Storm visit Hinkle Fieldhouse with a 11-8 record, and have a half game lead over the Bulldogs in the Big East with a 1-5 conference record. Both teams desperately need a conference win.

Shooting guard D’Angelo Harrison leads the team in scoring with 18 points per game. He shoots just 39-percent from the field, and is a bit of a volume shooter. He is worse from the three point line, but for some reason takes an average of five three’s per game. He does a good job of getting to the free throw line as well.

Forward Jakarr Sampson is the team’s second leading scorer with 12 points per game. He is also hauling in 6.3 rebounds per game. After these Sampson and Harrison, the Red Storm lack a consistent scorer. They are the only ones who manage to score in the double-digits on a consistent basis.

St. John’s isn’t very efficient on offense, but they do a good job taking care of the ball. They shoot just 44-percent from the field and just under 34-percent from the arc. The Bulldogs shouldn’t have much of a problem matching up on defense.

Defensively, the Red Storm host weekly block parties. They average nine blocks per game and have the highest block rate percentage in the country, swatting 22-percent of shots taken. The two teams have similar defensive ratings, and coincidentally similar offensive ratings.

Butler has struggled to shoot the ball recently, and will likely need to get hot from the three-point line to pull away with a win.

The Bulldogs hold a slight edge going into this game just by being at home. Pomeroy likes the Bulldogs winning 68-65 with a 64-percent chance of victory.

The homecourt advantage, coupled with desperation will give Butler the edge and its second win of the conference schedule.

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Tags: Brad Stevens Brandon Miller Butler Bulldogs Kellen Dunham Khyle Marshall Roosevelt Jones

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