As we continue inching closer to the start of conference play at the end of this month, the No. 15 Butler Bulldogs will take on the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville on Sunday, Dec. 14. Here's three things to watch for:
1. Kellen Dunham's Offensive Explosion
The Bulldogs have put their last three opponents away pretty handily, and junior guard Kellen Dunham's offensive production has been a big part of that. We all knew Dunham was going to be one of the country's best scoring guards, but he was having issues with efficiency to open the season, especially in the Bahamas over the Thanksgiving holiday. That doesn't appear to be the case anymore. In the three games since the Battle 4 Atlantis, Dunham is not only averaging 15.3 points per game, but he's shot an average of 61.9 percent from the field and 6-7 from three. He's surely not the only offensive option on the squad, but he's been on a heater heading into Sunday's matchup.
2. What can we make of Tennessee so far?
The 3-3 Volunteers knocked off both of their throwaway opponents early on, but have lost to No. 10 Kansas, then-No. 15 VCU and Big East member Marquette. The squad did just beat Kansas State by one point, so the Vols will have a little bit of momentum going their direction, but it's hard to say so far how they stack up against top competition. Tennessee has averaged just 65.7 points per game, and have just two players averaging double-digit scoring. They'll have to get creative offensively, especially against a top-notch defense like Butler's.
3. Butler's Defensive Success
Speaking of Butler's top notch defense, the Bulldogs have moved up to the 12th-best points allowed per game mark in the country, giving up only 54.2 points per game. With physical defenders like Alex Barlow, Roosevelt Jones and Kameron Woods sealing off the perimeter and Andrew Chrabascz serving as the team's de facto rim protector, Butler has been giving teams fits this year. They're playing textbook defense, and it should continue to be the biggest contributor to the team's success.