Game Preview: Butler vs. NJIT

USA TODAY Sports

Butler gets to snack on a post-Christmas cupcake before turning its attention to Big East opposition.

When: December 28

Time: 1:00 EST

Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

How to watch: Fox Sports 2

The 9-2 Butler Bulldogs return to Indianapolis for a matchup against the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The Highlanders have stumbled their way to a 6-8 record against pitiful competition and Butler is their only top-100 opponent this year. A member of the Great West Conference from 2010-2013, NJIT is an independent once again. The last time they weren't a member of a conference, the Highlanders went 1-59 over two seasons... so things could be worse.

Butler-

Kellen Dunham and Khyle Marshall still rank in the top five of Big East scorers. Dunham averages 18.9 points per game, but Marshall has been more critical to the Butler attack. Only three players in the conference use a greater percentage of their teams' possessions. Rebounding king Kameron Woods is averaging just a touch under a double-double per game and leads the Big East with 9.5 boards per game.

Alex Barlow led the Bulldogs with 16 points against Evansville last Saturday. That was the first time in Barlow's career that he's led the team in scoring. That performance earned Barlow a spot on the Big East Conference Weekly Honor Roll.

Remember when Butler's defense was a question mark at the beginning of the season? Not anymore. The Bulldogs now rank 29th in the country in defense efficiency, 2nd in the Big East. Butler is giving up 1.3 more points per 100 possessions than last season, but the national average has risen by more than three points (insert grumbling about new rules here).

NJIT-

The Highlanders shoot pretty well as a team at 39.5% from three-point range. That's pretty important since only NJIT is taller than only twelve teams in Division 1 and get knocked around a bit in the paint. Last time out, St. Francis (NY) blocked 12 of the Highlanders' shots. St. Francis has only one guy taller than 6'6". Yikes.

Damon Lynn leads NJIT with 16.6 points per game. He's a talented, if tiny (5'11" 165 lbs.), freshman who is knocking down a greater percentage of his shots from beyond the arc than inside. Terrence Smith is what passes for a Highlander big man at 6'6". He leads the team in rebounds (5.9 per game) and field goal percentage (57.6%).

The Highlanders lost to Seton Hall on December 10th, 71-55. The Pirates aren't a top Big East team, but they handled NJIT pretty well. That game really showed what's going on with Jim Engles' team this year. They made 47 percent from three-point range but just 35 percent inside the arc. And lost by 16.

Prediction

KenPom: Butler 79, NJIT 58 (97 percent chance of victory)

Butler beats up on the Highlanders inside and wins this one comfortably before turning its attention to Villanova.

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