Game Preview: No. 11 Villanova vs. Butler

USA TODAY Sports

Jay Wright and the boys are ready to get past their first loss and take on a very tough Butler team.

Coming off their first loss of the season and first drop in the Associated Press' weekly poll this season, the No. 11 Villanova Wildcats head to the historic Hinkie Fieldhouse to start Big East Conference play against Butler on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. on Fox Sports 1

But when discussing the Bulldogs during a Big East Conference Teleconference with all of the coaches in the conference on the same line, Wright, similarly to many other opponents, showed a high level of respect for Butler. Although they're new to the conference, Butler isn't new to Wright.

"Even though they're a new opponent, we've all watched Butler," Wright told reporters last Friday during the midday teleconference. "I've seen them a lot. They have great discipline, great attention to detail and outstanding toughness."

Wright has discussed Butler multiple times this season as one of the smarter teams in the country and a team he's looking forward to playing in conference play. The Bulldogs (10-2) high IQ squad and defensive ability present the Wildcat's second matchup playing a team that holds their opponents under 65 points per game (62.5). Butler also ranks second in the Big East in three-point field goal percentage defense, holding foes to 29.1 percent from the arc.

The Bulldogs use a tandem of wing players to do the bulk of their scoring. Sophomore Kellen Dunham leads the squad in scoring at 18.1 points per game and shoots a team-high 44.7 percent from deep while adding 4.2 boards in 35.6 minutes per contest. Senior forward Khyle Marshall adds 17 points and 6.7 rebounds per game as well. Each player ranks fourth and fifth in scoring in the Big East respectively.

Kameron Woods is also a problem on the low block. The 6-foot-9, 200-pound junior big man pulls down 9.8 rebounds a game and nets 9.6 points as well. Butler ranks 68th in the NCAA in rebounds per game, grabbing 38.7 a contest, something Coach Brandon Miller thinks his squad could do better on the offensive end.

"We look at rebounding as a team effort," Miller said during the teleconference last week when asked about his team's size and rebounding ability.

"I know rebounding is an individual statistic but we have a game plan in terms of how we are going to rebound the ball. I think our guys have bought into that and they've done a good job."

And even though the Wildcats (11-1) dropped their first decision of the season by sixteen points, it could prove to be beneficial in the long run. Villanova still ranks top-50 in the NCAA in scoring per game (39th, 80.8 per game), rebounding (25th, 40.8 per game) and assists (21st, 16.6 per game). Out of the ashes of their first big defeat, the Wildcats could be positioned to make another big splash, this time in conference play.

That, and Wright still has faith in his competition though the Wildcats are the only ranked team in the Big East. The coach believes he's playing in one of the best conferences in college basketball.

"I think everybody can be top-10 teams, most teams could be top-25 teams, Wright said nearing the end of the nearly-two hour teleconference.

"[The Big East] doesn't have many bad losses. That's exactly how I see the conference. We were down in the Bahamas with Xavier. We beat Iowa in the championship game in overtime. Xavier had Iowa down 15 and lost in overtime. That's how close Xavier is...The lowest RPI [in the conference] is around 140...We have one of the best basketball conferences in the country."

Notes

  • Senior James Bell was named to the Big East's Weekly Honor Roll for his performance against Syracuse, tying his career high in points with 25 big ones.
  • For the first time since entering the Top-25 Poll, the Villanova Wildcats have dropped in the rankings. Following their 16-point loss to the Syracuse Orange, the Wildcats stand at No. 11
  • Butler will be the Wildcats first battle in conference play, the Wildcats haven't played Butler since the late nineties
  • No Wildcats gained any honors this week from the Big 5 conference
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