In what is perhaps the most exciting matchup of this weekend's conference slate, the No. 6 Villanova Wildcats will travel to Indianapolis to take on the No. 22 Butler Bulldogs on Saturday, Feb. 14. The two squads last faced off during the New Year's Eve Tip-Off marathon, in which the Wildcats handily took down the Bulldogs 67-55 at home. Since that game, Villanova and Butler have combined for a 17-4 record, each losing just two games over a six week stretch. There's some pretty big ramifications riding on this game, and one has to think Butler is eager to take down the only team sitting above them in the Big East standings. Here's three things to watch for:
1. The view from the top
With Providence and Georgetown each dropping a few games over the last few weeks, Seton Hall floundering and St. John's just starting to recover from a down stretch, Butler and Villanova have cleanly risen to the top of the conference standings over the last month. The Wildcats lead the pack, as has been the case most of the season, at 9-2 in Big East play, and with the Bulldogs currently sitting in second at 8-3, there is a scenario in which Butler ties things up for first. Villanova's been the team to beat all season, so it would be a pretty big statement for the Bulldogs to deal them the loss. Likewise, a clean sweep of Butler would say a lot about the Wildcats, too.
2. A well-oiled machine
Here's a fun fact that has every team in the Big East on edge: six players on Villanova are averaging nine points per game or more this season. SIX. To make matters even more terrifying, the Wildcats also have six players averaging over 36 percent from three-point range. I'll go more into in an upcoming feature about Big East Player of the Year candidates, but part of what makes Villanova so tough to beat is their ability to feed the ball to all five players on the floor on offense at any time. They don't have one standout guy; they have a whole squad full of upper-tier guys. Butler is going to need everybody to firing on all cylinders if they want to slow them down on Saturday.
3. Containing the "Big Three"
Butler struggled a bit early in the season with getting multiple players hot on the same night, but as of late, they've gotten very solid work from the trio of Roosevelt Jones, Kellen Dunham and Andrew Chrabascz on a consistent basis. All three guys have extremely different skillsets that are starting to compliment each other brilliantly, with Roosevelt Jones crashing to the rim while opening up space for Dunham at the perimeter or for Chrabascz to fight his way to the basket on a slash-and-kick. It's created a world of possibilities for the Bulldogs, and they've never needed the trio more than they'll need against Villanova. When they're all on, they're tough to beat.