Game Preview: Butler vs. Xavier

Joe Robbins

Butler meets an old foe in a new conference when the Bulldogs travel down to Xavier.

When: January 4

Time: 2:00 EST

Where: Cintas Center, Cincinnati OH

How to watch: Fox Sports National

The Butler Bulldogs face a longtime conference rival Saturday in the Xavier Musketeers. Butler and Xavier faced off yearly from 1979 to 1995 as part of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference and as members of the Atlantic 10 last season. The Bulldogs are coming off a heartbreaking loss to 11th ranked Villanova, while Xavier beat St. John's on New Year's Eve.

How Butler Can Win-

Xavier plays good all-around defense, without any particular strengths or weaknesses of note. Two of the three teams to knock off the Musketeers this year, Iowa and Tennessee, did so by getting a number of second chances on the offensive end. If Butler can convert missed shots into offensive rebounds, as they did against LSU (a team whose efficiency numbers mirror Xavier's), the Bulldogs have a chance to pull off an early conference road win.

Rebounding is key on the defensive end as well, where Kameron Woods and Co. excel at taking away offensive boards. Before that happens, however, Butler needs to force their opponents to miss shots. While the Bulldogs played well against Villanova on the perimeter, JayVaughn Pinkston was able to pound away inside. Xavier is much less reliant on the three and will look to attack the basket if Butler's post defenders cannot clog the lane.

How Xavier Can Win-

Last year's Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, Semaj Christon, is having a solid sophomore campaign. He's scoring 14.4 per game and taking better care of the basketball with just 2.1 turnovers a contest. Big men Matt Stainbrook and Isaiah Philmore each flirted with a double-double against St. John's. As mentioned above, they will need to clean the glass.

On defense, the Musketeers will look to pick up where they left off against St. John's. Holding a conference opponent to 14-54 of two-point attempts is an impressive feat as Xavier had six guys record either a steal or a block in that game. Last season, Butler won by getting to the foul line and earning some free points. Xavier will need to cut down on the fouls, something they failed to do during their 0-3 trip to the Bahamas.

Prediction

KenPom: Xavier 67, Butler 61 (27 percent chance of Butler victory)

Though Xavier is a weaker opponent than Villanova, this will be a tough test for a Butler team that has struggled at times on the road this year (see State, Ball). Butler hasn't won in the Cintas Center since 2009 and has lost three of four to the Musketeers. If they can't pull off the victory, at least an easier conference opponent awaits next week at home against DePaul.

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