The Butler Bulldogs may want to reconsider the move to the Big East after this season. A 2-9 conference record and 12-11 overall isn’t what was expected from this team.
Going into the season, it looked like the Bulldogs were in rebuild mode, especially after Brad Stevens left for the NFL. Losing Roosevelt Jones before the season certainly didn’t help either.
Lately, Butler has been alternating pairs of losses with a win. Based on the pattern, the Bulldogs are due for a win tonight.
Its been awhile since Butler and Xavier last met. The Bulldogs managed to keep that game close until the final minutes of play. There were 11 ties and five lead changes back in early January but a lot has changed since then.
Xavier comes to Indianapolis with a 16-7 overall record. They are a distant third in the Big East (behind Villanova and Creighton) with a 6-4 conference record. They snapped a three game losing streak with a win over Providence this past weekend.
The Musketeers have a fairly balanced attack on the court. Their offense is slightly better than the defense, but neither is a weakness for this team. Sophomore guard Semaj Christon leads the team with nearly 17 points per game and four assists. He’s also averaging about 35 minutes per game, despite coach Chris Mack having a fairly solid bench.
Despite being solid overall on defense, Xavier struggles to defend the three point line at times. They are allowing opponents to shoot over 35-percent from the arc, which is bad news when you are facing a player like Kellen Dunham.
The Musketeers also struggle to force turnovers, with opponents coughing up the ball on just 16-percent of possessions. Butler has been very good at taking care of the ball, and turn it over on just 15-percent of its plays.
On offense, Xavier shoots nearly 47-percent from the field and are equally effective inside and outside the arc. They are a very good offensive rebounding team as well, but hustle on the boards has always been a hallmark of Butler teams. Xavier has a nasty habit of getting shots blocked, but unfortunately for the Bulldogs they are not all that adept at sending shots the other way.
Butler should be able to matchup fairly well on the defensive end of the court, but Xavier is more than capable of shutting down an inconsistent Bulldog offense. The problem recently for Butler is second half defense where the Bulldogs have given up 88 points in their last two games.
The defense has been solid to open up a game, only to fall apart late. The Bulldogs can’t afford lapses like that in the second half, and being at home should help dramatically. After having three games on the road, Butler fans will be happy to have them back in the safe confines of Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Xavier is a tough opponent, and right now it is hard to have faith in the Bulldogs. They can certainly come away with a win tonight, but I’m inclined to pick the Musketeers.
Butler falls to 12-12 with a loss this evening.