1. Butler's Lockdown Defense
Through the first seven games, the 6-1 Bulldogs have dominated teams on the defensive end, challenging opponents at the rim and pressuring their ballhandlers at the perimeter. Butler has given up an average of 54.4 points per game this season, the 15th-best mark in the country. It all starts with senior guard Alex Barlow, whose defensive intensity has held top caliber guards like North Carolina's Marcus Paige, Oklahoma's Buddy Hield and Georgetown's Devauntes Smith-Rivera in check already this year. Senior Kameron Woods has been a monster on the glass, grabbing 9.1 rebounds per game and using his length to swat and swipe 1.3 blocks and 1.6 steals per game. They haven't been the most consistent squad offensively, but when you play defense like this, it lightens the load.
2. Which Kelan Martin will show up?
When a freshman scores in double digits five times in seven games, it's difficult to cry wolf for more consistency, but Martin's performances have been uneven at times this year. The learning curve is to be expected, and it appears that both Martin and interim head coach Chris Holtmann are starting to get more comfortable with his role in the offense. However, when looking at Butler's two weakest performances this season against Chattanooga and Oklahoma, Martin scored just a combined three points in two games. It's starting to become clear that when he's playing well, the team plays well, too. I wrote in this week's recap that Martin deserves to be in the same conversation as some of the other top freshman in the Big East, and it's starting to show. This kid's good.
3. Can the Bulldogs contain Northwestern's Alex Olah?
Olah, a true seven-footer, leads the Wildcats in both points (10.9 per game) and rebounds (7.3 per game) on the year. It's no secret that Butler lacks some size down low, and it will be interesting to see how Holtmann plans to slow down Olah when he gets the ball in the paint. He'll most likely battle with sophomore forward Andrew Chrabascz, who is listed at 6'7", and that will most likely be the key matchup of the night. If Northwestern is looking for an advantage, the ball might need to run through Olah.
Enjoy the game!