The Xavier Musketeers were a strong candidate as a potential No. 1 seed but trouble arose earlier this week when they fell at the hands of the Creighton Bluejays in Omaha. The 70-56 loss apparently dropped Xavier to a No. 3 seed in ESPN's Bracketology, and now Xavier are two games behind Villanova for first in the BIG EAST standings as they now have a 21-3 record with a 9-3 conference record.
Xavier can obviously comeback and still be in the talk of a potential No. 1 seed but they have to make sure that they turn around very quickly. As we what saw with Providence, one loss leads to another and then everything starts to spin out of control and turns south very quickly.
It snapped a six-game winning streak for Xavier and now Chris Mack has to be able to help his team bounce back. Coach Mack has done an exceptional job with getting them this far and we all know that this group is talented enough to win the BIG EAST and conference tournament tournament.
But it all has to start with a win over Butler.
The Bulldogs will be no pushover as they enter Saturday's game in the midst of a three-game winning streak. Butler has picked up wins over Georgetown, St. John's and Seton Hall during this streak and will look to add Xavier to that list as well.
After being stagnant for much of BIG EAST play, the Butler offense has picked up and the Bulldogs are looking dangerous when they have the ball in their hands. Butler's winning ways bumped up their record to 17-7 overall with a 6-6 conference record, good for seventh in the standings. What's weird is that they have a good enough nonconference resume to get in, but their conference slate needs some more work.
A win over Seton Hall helped a lot even though they are still stuck at 7th in the conference. But with a win over Xavier, Butler could essentially lock in an at-large bid.
How to watch, listen, or stream
Game Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: WFNI ESPN 1070 AM (Butler) || 55KRC-AM (Xavier)
Stream: Streaming is likely available via FOX Sports GO where available.
Odds: Butler enters this game as a 2-point favorite (via OddsShark), so that home court advantage plays to their favor.
Record ATS: Butler (11-12-1) || Xavier (14-10)
O/U: The O/U opened at 152.5
3 things to watch
1. Kelan Martin: Butler's standout sophomore guard has been prolific and 'the guy' to watch this season for the Bulldogs. He is leading the team in scoring with 16.1 points per game despite playing an average of seven less minutes than top players Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones. Martin has been used as a sixth man -- though playing in the starting lineup lately -- and has been a key player in Butler's success especially in this winning streak. He scored 23 points against Seton Hall and had a career-high 35 against Georgetown. Look for Martin to have another big game for Butler as he is in top form right now.
2. Better 3-point shooting from Xavier: The Musketeers had a horrible night shooting the basketball from downtown against Creighton. X shot 1-of-21 from beyond the arc -- that's right, you read that correctly, 1 for 21. It was the worst 3-point shooting night in college basketball this season and against a high-scoring team like Butler, Xavier cannot afford another bad shooting night. Although their defense is exceptional, the Musketeer offense will be the X-factor in this matchup.
3. Could a win help Butler lock in an at large bid?: A win could essentially qualify Butler as a lock in into the NCAA Tournament with a win. Assuming they don't win the BIG EAST Tournament and they avoid major disaster to end the season, Xavier's basically already in the tournament so a loss may, at worst, drop their seeding. But for the Bulldogs who are on thin ice at the moment, a victory over a highly touted team in the Musketeers could go a long way towards supporting themselves on the stretch run.