1. Xavier is incredibly talented offensively (19th in the nation at 79.2 PPG), what can Butler do on D to try and slow down the Musketeers' offense?
Mike Murtaugh (Butler): With high powered offenses, the key to the game is to control the pace. They'll need to limit the Musketeers' opportunities in transition (their offensive rebounding will help), but the Bulldogs have been tremendous at slowing teams down in the half court. They'll need to do a better job protecting the rim than they have in their last few games, but Butler should be able to keep their reputation for physical defense on the perimeter and at the point of attack.
Sheridan M (Xavier): They will have to play excellent help defense because Xavier is an offense that thrives due to their scoring depth. Multiple Muskies have showed the ability to step up and make plays offensively this season when people like Matt Stainbrook and Trevon Bluiett find themselves slumping offensively.
Robert O'Neill (Butler): Like Mike said, Butler needs to control the pace. This is different than Butler's past couple games where you have to key in on stopping one guy in particular. Xavier has a few different guys that can beat you, so Butler should look to run the shot clock down a bit and they should hope to continue their offensive rebounding prowess, which won't be easy with Xavier big man Matt Stainbrook patroling the paint.
2. On the other hand, Butler is very middle of the road offensively, 137th in the nation at 69.8 PPG. What can the Bulldogs do to try and get it going on offense?
Mike Murtaugh: A huge part of their issues have come from bad isolation possessions and a high volume of shots from Roosevelt Jones. Jones has been a bit clumsy as the team's lead ballhandler, and it may help the team out if they hand some of the point guard duties back to Alex Barlow or take advantage of Andrew Chrabascz's passing out of the high post. The key is going to be better ball movement and more off-ball motion, which will cut down on poor iso looks and potentially create more space for shooters like Kellen Dunham and Barlow.
Sheridan M: Make shots when they have open looks, especially from deep. Xavier played well consistently on defense this year, especially in regards to defending the deep ball. If Dunham can light it up, Butler will certainly have a good chance to win in front of their home crowd.
Robert O'Neill: Someone that isn't Kellen Dunham has to step up and be formidable on offense. Dunham is a very good player, but he's scoring 16 points per game. He's not out here scoring 25+ like Doug McDermott. You need secondary and tertiary scoring options so Dunham doesn't have to shoulder the entire load.
3. Given that Butler is very good at limiting offensive rebounds, how should Xavier C Matt Stainbrook attack the paint, given that he's one of the best rebounders in the conference?
Mike Murtaugh: Stainbrook won't be a factor in transition, so Xavier should have him crashing the offensive boards on every possession. He should be able to overwhelm Butler's Kameron Woods physically, so I'd look for Stainbrook to really take it to the Bulldogs in this one.
Sheridan M: He should just play his game. I think it will take extensive lengths from Butler to keep Matt off the offensive boards and off the glass in general with his size and comfort in the paint. It will require a double team to limit Matt's effectiveness on the glass, which in turn will free up either James Farr or Jalen Reynolds to attack the boards.
Robert O'Neill: It's a mix of what Mike and Sheridan said, really. Stainbrook vs. Kam Woods is going to be the most important matchup of the game, and I don't know if Woods will win. Stainbrook is a freakish athlete with a high ability to get rebounds, so Butler might be in some trouble today.
4. Both Butler and Xavier have high-caliber freshmen players in Trevon Bluiett and Kelan Martin, what can each team do to get the most out of these players?
Mike Murtaugh: Bluiett just needs to get going early and get his touches. This should be a fun one for Bluiett, considering he's a local guy and was considering the Bulldogs before officially choosing Xavier. In Martin's case, he needs to get more assertive. Prior to the season, Butler head coach Chris Holtmann joked at practice about Martin's confidence in finding his shot, but that's gone away over the course of the season. Martin isn't crazy efficient, but he can be a sniper from three, so I think the biggest thing is just to get his shots up.
Sheridan M: This will be a huge game for Trevon Bluiett since he is from Indianapolis and many people pegged him as a Butler lock until Brad Stevens left for the Celtics. There is good reason to believe many of Trevon's family and friends will be in attendance so he will have an extra incentive to impress his loved ones. They will need to get him looks early and often. If he is feeling it, expect a big game from Bluiett.
Robert O'Neill: Everyone nailed it. It's a homecoming for Bluiett and he'll have a multitude of friends and family behind him. That can lead to added confidence, which could spell trouble for the Bulldogs. As for Martin, like Mike said, he needs to be more assertive. I'm sure the thinking is, "Oh, I'm a freshman, I shouldn't shoot that much". However, Martin's the second or third best offensive threat the Bulldogs have, so he definitely shouldn't be afraid to shoot.
5. Who wins this game and why?
Mike Murtaugh: I know the Bulldogs are tough to beat at home, but Providence proved earlier this week that they're not invincible. I'm going with Xavier here, mostly because the the Musketeers should be able to dominate in the post and score a boatload of points, and I can't see the Bulldogs keeping up offensively unless they start scoring with more efficiency.
Sheridan M: I think Xavier wins this game and I think Trevon Bluiett has a breakout game, going off for over twenty points. If Xavier can play good defense like they did against both Seton Hall and Georgetown they should win this road game.
Robert O'Neill: I really don't think Butler is going to lose back-to-back home games, so I have to take the Bulldogs. However, if they can't slow Xavier down and it becomes Kellen Dunham vs. Xavier, offensively, Xavier will win big.