What a week for Xavier. On Wednesday, they beat Cincinnati, their biggest in-state rival, before getting set to face their biggest conference rival in Butler on Saturday. It was crazy loud at Hinkle when the Bulldogs beat the Musketeers in their first showdown on Jan. 10, and it should be no different this time with fans from both teams making the trip up to Cincy for the game. These teams hate each other, and it'll only be multiplied by the fact that every game matters (especially for Xavier) coming down the stretch of the regular season. Here's three things to watch:
1. Andrew Chrabascz's absence, Round Two
After getting surgery on an injured hand on Monday, the Bulldogs played their first game without their starting big man on Monday at Creighton. The results were mixed, as freshman Tyler Wideman started in his place but played just 12 minutes, and Chris Holtmann ended up sticking with a rotation of Austin Etherington and Jackson Davis in the open spot in the second half. A big part of Creighton's success during what turned out to be a Butler win was due to their ability to find (and hit) open three's, with many caused by slow rotations from Etherington on the perimeter. I like Davis' potential, especially as defender, and while he is absolutely inexperienced, he's long and athletic. Holtmann learned a lot about how to replace Chrabascz during that game, so it should be interesting to see how he does things this time.
2. Trevon Bluiett looks to make a statement
There's a couple reasons why I'm intrigued by this. Firstly, Bluiett struggled mightily in Xavier's win over Cincinnati on Wednesday, scoring just two points on a pair of free throws. He was 0-of-2 for the entire game, taking and missing both of his shot attempts from behind the three-point arc. Instead, the X were carried by Dee Davis (16 points, 5-of-5 from three). Bluiett has bounced back from quiet games with some regularity this season, and he'd probably love to make a statement against a Bulldog team that recruited him throughout the entire process. He could also be the beneficiary of Chrabascz's absence if Butler plays Kameron Woods down low again, so this could be a huge game for the freshman forward.
3. Every win counts for the Musketeers
We talked a little bit about this in yesterday's Editor Roundtable, but Xavier is hanging out right on the fringe of the NCAA tournament. If the season ended today, they've probably done enough to get in comfortably, but a win over Butler could be great for their resume. Their next stretch of games is brutal, with Butler on Saturday, and then St. John's and Villanova next week. However, if they get through those three games alive, they're golden come tournament time.
Enjoy the game!