How to watch, listen, or stream
Game time: Noon ET
TV: FOX (Gus Johnson, Jim Jackson, Lisa Byington)
Radio: 1070 The Fan
Streaming: Fox Sports Go
Butler’s schedule so far hasn’t been as abysmal as Georgetown’s in non-conference play, but the Bulldogs haven’t faced a team as talented as Purdue yet this season. The last time they faced as big a center as Isaac Haas, Butler lost to Mohamed Bamba and Texas by 13. The last time the Bulldogs faced an NBA caliber wing, Justin Jackson at Maryland held Kelan Martin and Kamar Baldwin to a combined 11-36 shooting line and Butler lost by 14. Vincent Edwards will be matching up against both of them Saturday.
Purdue’s best weapons, Haas and Edwards, are the types of players who bring out the worst in Butler. Throw in the magnitude of the in-state rivalry, and the Bulldog’s backs will be against the wall at Banker’s Life.
Like every game Butler plays, Baldwin and Martin’s play will determine the outcome of the game.
Consider this: Martin is the only player averaging more than five rebounds per game. Baldwin has twice as many steals as anyone else. Every other possession ends with them shooting.
Martin’s 29-11 line fueled the Bulldogs to a 12 point win against Utah, and Baldwin led the team in scoring with 19 the next game. They’ll both need to approach 20 on Saturday.
But neither is an efficient three point shooter, they operate attacking the basket on drives and pulling up from the midrange. Purdue has a 7 foot rim protector in Haas (actually two, counting promising freshman center Matt Haarms). Butler’s leading duo will need to score in different ways.
The team who parallels Purdue most closely is Texas, which didn’t end well in November.
That makes Paul Jorgensen and Aaron Thompson important in the Purdue matchup. Jorgensen is Butler’s best three point shooter, and Thompson leads the team in assists. Thompson is best at breaking down the defense and Jorgensen can stretch it. They bring more levels on the floor where the Bulldogs can score from. They’re Butler’s best hope at opening up the midrange for its best two players.
Purdue is one of the deeper and one of the bigger teams in the country. The Big East is a power conference, but Purdue looks more like the power conference team. That’s how the Boiler Makers shook Marquette, Arizona, Louisville and Maryland. That’s how they caused Northwestern to fall apart in the final minutes of their matchup. Those wins stack up with what any team has done this season.
If Purdue pulled out its back-and-forth game against No. 20 Tennessee, we’d be looking at a top ten team.
The best part of nonconference play, especially in an in-state matchup, is seeing how different styles of play clash. Does Butler speed up the tempo or will Purdue grind them down? The bigger question, can the middle of the Big East stack up with the Big Ten?
There’s a lot of pressure on Butler in this one since they lack a signature win. Last season, the Bulldogs entered conference play in the top ten, and fell off the national radar during conference play, despite a top 25 ranking. Even the Bulldog’s Sweet 16 run was under-valued, since they beat Winthrop and Middle Tennessee to get there (they put a scare in UNC before bowing out).
The Crossroads Classic is about gaining respect in Indiana. For the first time in a while, the Bulldogs will be vying to earn respect across the country.