RANKINGS: Butler (#50 KenPom) | Texas (#31 KenPom)
RECORDS: Butler (3-1) | Texas (3-0)
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
TV CHANNEL: ESPN2
WATCH ONLINE: WatchESPN
Just over two and a half years ago, the Butler Bulldogs defeated the Texas Longhorns in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. This Thanksgiving, the two teams again find themselves matched up in a first-round tournament game – this time, as part of the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Oregon. The tournament, which honors the 80th birthday of Nike founder Phil Knight, features some of the top programs in college basketball, including Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State, Gonzaga, and Oregon.
Texas was coached by Rick Barnes in the last Butler-Texas matchup, but the face that will lead the Longhorns on Thursday is certainly a familiar one for Butler fans. Shaka Smart took over in Austin after the 2014-2015 season. Before that, he was at VCU, where he coached against Butler in the 2011 Final Four, and in 2013-2014 in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
Butler will be the first real test for the undefeated Longhorns this season. Texas has dominating victories against Northwestern State, New Hampshire, and Lipscomb in the early going. The Longhorns are led by guards Andrew Jones, and Kerwin Roach II, as well as highly-touted freshman and potential lottery pick Mohamed Bamba. Bamba averaged 14 points and 9 rebounds a game while shooting 64.7% from the field in two games. Bamba also racked up 9 blocks in those two contests.
The Bulldogs will rely on Tyler Wideman and Nate Fowler to contain Bamba, while Kamar Baldwin and Aaron Thompson will be tasked with defending the athletic Texas guards. Paul Jorgensen could be a key for Butler offensively; he had 16 points in Butler’s 82-65 win over Furman, and his shooting could open up the floor for Baldwin, and a struggling Kelan Martin.
The reward for winning this first-round matchup is a date with the Duke Blue Devils, assuming Duke takes care of Portland State. The invitational field is loaded with potential resume boosters. Come March, Butler may be grateful for a Thanksgiving Day win and any ensuing PK80 victories.