Game Preview: Butler vs. No. 11 Villanova

Andy Lyons

The Wildcats are coming off a loss to Syracuse but should provide a big test for Butler in its first Big East matchup.

When: December 31

Time: 7:30 EST

Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

How to watch: Fox Sports 1

After nine months of anticipation, the Butler Bulldogs will face Big East competition for the first time on New Year's Eve. The program with a new coach, new mascot, and new star players officially makes the shift at the dawn of a new calendar year. Butler hasn't received any votes in either the AP or Coaches' Poll, but you can bet a Top 25 ranking will come in a hurry if they knock off 'Nova and Xavier this week.

How Butler Can Win-

Kellen Dunham and Khyle Marshall need to find ways to score against a particularly stingy Villanova D. The Wildcats don't excel in any one aspect on the defensive end, but the sum of their parts has built the 3rd most efficient defense in the country. Nova showed some vulnerability to the three ball against Syracuse so look for Dunham and Co. to try to take advantage from long range.

The Bulldogs need to play tough under the basket as well. Villanova enters the game shooting 54.7 percent from inside the arc, 17th in the nation. Butler's two-point defense is rather mediocre at 141st. Rangy defender Kameron Woods and postmen Erik Fromm and Andrew Chrabascz will have their hands full defending the paint.

How Villanova Can Win-

The Wildcats have the ability to shut down just about any scoring attack. With four guys averaging a steal or more per game and Daniel Ochefu locking down the block (1.8 blocks per contest), Villanova has stopped every offense they've faced except Syracuse. And nobody's figured out how to slow down the Orange yet this year.

On the offensive end, a three-headed monster of James Bell, JayVaughn Pinkston, and Darrun Hilliard lead the way. The three top scorers use a full quarter of the team's possessions when they are on the floor. Josh Hart provides an added three-point shooter, which is important since only two teams in the country rely on the three ball more than the Wildcats.

Prediction

KenPom: Villanova 67, Butler 65 (40 percent chance of Butler victory)

Its a good test of strength versus strength, as Butler should be able to slow down Nova's reliance on threes. In a game that could come down to the wire, the Wildcats will probably have enough success in the paint to pull out a road win.

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