Game Preview: Butler vs. North Dakota

Sam Greenwood

Top Big Sky scorer Troy Huff comes to town, but what is his team called?

When: December 7

Time: 6:00 EST

Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

How to watch: Fox Sports 1

The Butler Bulldogs are back home to kick off a two-game homestand following the Old Spice Classic. 2-4 North Dakota visits Hinkle Fieldhouse following three straight losses away from Grand Forks.

Bulldog bites

Butler moved up a spot to 58th in the Pomeroy rankings after a 1-2 stint in Orlando. The two losses came to top opponents in Oklahoma State and LSU. Brandon Miller's squad will be looking to rebound and pick up a couple wins before leaving home again for contests against Purdue and Evansville.

Alex Barlow played well in the Old Spice Classic. He now leads the team with a 50% line from beyond the arc. Barlow also leads the Bulldogs in steals and assists and is averaging less than one turnover per game.

Khyle Marshall showed off his scoring ability by providing 30 points to carry Butler to a narrow win against Washington State, but followed with two underwhelming performances to close the Old Spice Classic. Butler needs a more consistent output from Marshall to offset its hot-and-cold shooters.

Those shooters would be Kellen Dunham and Elijah Brown. Dunham teamed up with Marshall with 32 points against the Cougars, but made just 31 percent of his shots the rest of the tournament. Averaging the most minutes of any Big East player this early in the season won't help his shooting legs. Brown scored 15 against Washington State after a goose egg in the first contest. Whatever caused his benching against LSU should not be a factor in this game.

Fighting Sioux notes

North Dakota seems to be a pretty similar team to Butler in that they keep good care of the basketball. The team-formerly-know-as-the-Fighting-Sioux has the 16th-lowest steal percentage on offense of any Division 1 program. They struggle to defend the ball inside, however, with one of the shortest lineups in the country. North Dakota is 5th to last in defensive two point field goal percentage.

Troy Huff is the player to watch. Using one-third of the team's possessions, Huff is as integral to the North Dakota offense as any player in the country. The 6'5" senior hasn't warmed up beyond the arc (28 percent three-point shooting this year), but does know how to draw the whistle and get to the line. Just ten players in the country have drawn more fouls per 40 minutes this year. Look for him to repeat as Big Sky scoring leader and challenge for Player of the Year honors.

Aaron Anderon is the team's biggest three point threat, with 55 percent made from long range. He averages 14.7 points per but doesn't add a lot more to the stat sheet. Jaron Nash is North Dakota's second leading rebounder (after Huff) with five per game. He also adds 11.2 points per contest.

Prediction

KenPom: Butler 81, North Dakota 66 (Butler win probability- 92 percent)

The way to beat North Dakota is to pound it inside. Even though the Bulldogs don't have a reliable post scorer, Dunham and Marshall take it to the rim enough to give Butler a cushion they don't relinquish.

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