Game Preview: Creighton vs. Butler

Dave Weaver-USA TODAY Sports

The Creighton Bluejays welcome the Butler Bulldogs, who have been struggling out of the gates in conference play, to Omaha on Tuesday evening.

Teams: Creighton (14-2; 4-0) vs. Butler (10-6; 0-4)

Day: Tuesday, Jan. 14

Time: 9:00 PM ET

Location: CenturyLink Center Omaha; Omaha, Neb.

TV: FOX Sports 1

Radio: 1620 KZON-AM (Creighton) or 1070 The Fan (Butler)

Creighton Storylines

No Grant Gibbs, no problem.

The Creighton Bluejays will be a week removed from losing significant contributor Grant Gibbs to a dislocated kneecap. While Gibbs will be out for 4-6 weeks, it appeared, based upon the play of the Bluejays, that others were more than ready to step up in his absence. Avery Dingman, who found himself thrusted into the starting lineup against Xavier, scored 16 points in an increased role against DePaul last Tuesday. Furthermore, against Xavier, five Creighton players were in double figures, and the team scored more than 90 points for the fourth time this season.

As it goes for any time that the Bluejays step onto the court, their offensive efficiency is a huge factor as to why they have been so successful. And as a result, the key for their opponents will be to keep up with their phrenetic pace. But, that has presented itself to be a huge problem for their opponents, and the more successful they are on the court, the more dangerous they appear. Heading into this matchup with the Butler Bulldogs, the Bluejays lead the nation in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (121.4 points per 100 possessions), Effective FG% (58.7 percent) and 3PT% (43.7).

Butler Storylines

Creighton and Butler both have something in common: both are new members of this new BIG EAST Conference. They however have a glaring difference between the two as well: both are going in completely different directions. While the Creighton Bluejays are 4-0 through their first four games of the BIG EAST season, the Butler Bulldogs have tumbled to an 0-4 start through their first four games as a member of the BIG EAST. What might sting most for Butler is that three of those four losses have been in nail-biting fashion in Hinkle Fieldhouse. Those three have come in either overtime or double overtime, and those were decided by an average of 3.67 points.

Though they have gone through these struggles, it's hard to pin those problems on Kellen Dunham. The sophomore guard from Pendleton, In. has been Butler's most significant contributor on the season .Accounting for 25.3 percent of their possessions, Dunham is scoring 18.8 points per game and is averaging 37.0 minutes a night. Although Dunham's efficiency certainly has plenty of room for improvement, that has not stopped Dunham from scoring in bunches. Dunham has hit double figures in each of the Bulldogs' conference games, including a 30-point showing against DePaul last Thursday. The offense has run through Dunham, even through their defeats.

X-Factors

Doug McDermott's impact on the Bluejays goes without saying. But, Ethan Wragge's impact has been felt in mammoth was over the last few contests. Wragge went through a skittish series of inefficiencies, but has since found his stroke from the 3-point line. Wragge is scoring 11.75 points on average through the first four games of the BIG EAST season, including a 15-point performance against Xavier on Sunday. Wragge was hitting those 3-point attempts from far beyond the 3-point line, and he has proven that once he gets going, he is hard to stop. If saying that is not enough, his astronomical 49.2 3PT FG% holds serious weight.

Khyle Marshall has been a force for the Bulldogs inside the 3-point arc this season. Marshall, a senior forward from Davie, Fl. possesses a 53.8 FG% and his 2PT percentage is even better. The senior forward has shot 56.8 percent on 185 attempts this season. Those 185 attempts account for a team-high 29.4 percent of shots taken by Bulldog players through Butler's first 16 games of the 2013-14 season. While Dunham has attained the grip of the offense for much of the season, it's Marshall who is perhaps the player to look for to make an impact.

Four Factors

Team Effective FG% Turnover% Off. Rebounding% FTA/FGA
Creighton 58.7 15.9 31.1 33.5
Butler 48.3 15.4 32.4 41.2

The Prediction

The Butler Bulldogs struggling in their new conference has been a bit of a surprise for a program that accomplished so much with Brad Stevens at the helm. It has been a tough go for Brandon Miller but with Dunham and Marshall the Bulldogs should present some problems for the Creighton Bluejays. But, barring a jarring derailment, expect these two teams to continue on the paths that they have been traveling upon thus far.

Creighton 73 Butler 60

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