Time and Date: Tuesday, January 2, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. ET
Records: Xavier (14-1) | Butler (12-3)
Rankings: Xavier (#16 KenPom) | Butler (#38 KenPom)
TV Channel: FS1
Watch Online: FOX Sports Go
Last Year: Butler swept Xavier in 2016-2017, beating them 83-78 at home, and 88-79 in Cincinnati.
ODDS AND ENDS
The Spread: Xavier is a seven-point favorite
Over/Under: 154 points
Only three teams made it through the first week of Big East play undefeated – Tuesday night in Cincinnati, two of those teams will face each other. Butler comes into the match-up against Xavier after beating Georgetown in a double overtime thriller and burying Villanova with a barrage of three-pointers. Meanwhile, Xavier edged out Marquette in a high-scoring contest and managed to fend off a red-hot Max Strus and the DePaul Blue Demons.
Before the season, Villanova was favored to win the conference, but many thought Xavier could contend for the title as well. With Villanova suffering an early loss, Xavier, Seton Hall, and perhaps even Butler have an opportunity to seize a significant advantage in the quest for a Big East championship.
An added incentive for the Musketeers on Tuesday will be the chance for revenge – Butler beat Xavier twice last year. Butler will have the chance to beat Villanova and Xavier back-to-back for the second straight season.
The match-up features several players who are familiar with each other. Seniors Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura for Xavier, as well as Kelan Martin and Tyler Wideman for Butler, have been present for four years of what has become something of a rivalry between the Musketeers and the Bulldogs.
The two teams have different tasks on Tuesday. Butler will be looking to replicate its previous performance (against Villanova) while Xavier will be looking to improve on its previous game (against DePaul).
Butler has been red-hot offensively – in fact, going back to the game against Georgetown, Butler has scored 152 points in in its last three full halves of basketball. If the Bulldogs shoot like they did against Villanova (15-22 three-pointers), they will be nearly impossible to beat.
Xavier, on the other hand, looked fairly vulnerable against DePaul, trailing by as many as 16 in the second half and only recapturing the lead with seven minutes left in the game. The Musketeers certainly know how to grind out tough wins, but they will likely have to play better against Butler to come out on top.
Finally, Tuesday’s game is a great resume-building opportunity for both teams and especially Butler. Whichever team wins will have an early edge in the Big East and one more quality win under its belt, while the losing team will not be credited with a “bad loss.” This game could have ramifications come March.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Xavier: Perimeter Defense
Xavier has shown some weakness defending the perimeter lately, allowing 15 threes to Marquette, and getting torched for 33 points by Max Strus. This doesn’t bode well for the Musketeers, because Butler is on fire from beyond the arc. However, Butler hasn’t shot particularly well on the season, and seems to feed off of early makes. If Xavier can keep the Bulldogs (especially Paul Jorgensen and Kelan Martin) from getting good looks from long-range early and force them to try scoring in the paint, the Bulldogs may struggle and find themselves in another offensive rut.
Butler: Control the Pace
Butler had an unbelievable offensive performance against Villanova. At one point, the Bulldogs made 13-14 threes, and during that span they were launching from any angle and distance at any point in the shot clock. Butler is unlikely to reproduce that performance against Xavier, and needs to control the pace and run its offense, especially early. If the Bulldogs come out of the gate firing threes and missing, Trevon Bluiett and the Musketeers could jump out to an early lead that will be difficult to erase on the road.