Time and Date: Wednesday, November 21 @ 7 p.m. ET
Location: Paradise Island, Bahamas
Records: Butler (3-0) | Dayton (3-0)
Rankings: Butler (#32 KenPom) | Dayton (#99 KenPom)
TV Channel: ESPNews
The Big East has had a rough go of it thus far in the 2018-19 season, and only three undefeated teams remain from the conference. One of those is Butler, who heads to the Bahamas this week to participate in the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Bulldogs intend to represent the Big East well in a tournament that features the likes of Virginia, Florida, and Oklahoma. In the first round, Butler will face off against the Dayton Flyers.
Dayton is loaded with talent and figures to be a key player in the Atlantic 10 this year. The Flyers are undefeated in three games and have showcased the depth of their roster with six players averaging double figures in points per game. Star forward Josh Cunningham was sidelined with a minor wrist injury at the start of the season, but logged 20 points on 9-10 shooting against Fort Wayne in his first game back.
Butler, however, has an advantage having played Ole Miss in its most recent game. Dayton has yet to face an opponent of SEC caliber — its wins have come against North Florida, Coppin State, and Fort Wayne. If the Bulldogs come out clicking, they could overwhelm the Flyers.
The key match-up in this one will be in the paint. Cunningham is a traditional, bruising big man. He will shoot the occasional three, but almost 90% of his shots are two-pointers. Freshman Obi Toppin has also excelled inside to begin the season — he is averaging 15.0 points per game without having attempted a three. Butler’s Joey Brunk has been excellent through three games while Nate Fowler has been mostly a non-factor. The Bulldogs will likely need both guys to perform well in order to prevail.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Butler: Contain Cunningham and Toppin
Butler lacks depth when it comes to big men. After Fowler and Brunk, the next true big would be freshman Bryce Golden, who hasn’t played yet this year. If Fowler and Brunk get in foul trouble against Dayton, the Bulldogs could be in serious trouble. Even if they do avoid foul trouble, there are still lingering questions about their ability to defend. Butler has to find a way to prevent Cunningham and Toppin from dominating like they did against previous opponents.
Dayton: Stay attached to shooters
The downside of Dayton’s reliance on its bigs is that the Flyers can sometimes move slowly on defense. Butler has a number of sharpshooters — McDermott, Baldwin, and Paul Jorgensen, who is coming off an outrageously hot shooting night against Ole Miss — and moves the ball well. Dayton allowed 13 threes to Fort Wayne; the Flyers cannot afford to allow the Bulldogs to hurt them from distance.