Time and Date: Thursday, November 22 @ 9:30 p.m. ET
Location: Paradise Island, Bahamas
Records: Butler (3-1) | Middle Tennessee (3-2)
Rankings: Butler (#35 KenPom) | Middle Tennessee (#167 KenPom)
TV Channel: ESPN2 or ESPNU
Butler was disappointing against Dayton, but there is no time to sulk during Feast Week tournaments. The Bulldogs have just over 24 hours to ponder their recent defeat before they have to take on Middle Tennessee in the Thanksgiving Day nightcap at the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Two seasons ago, the Bulldogs defeated the Blue Raiders in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Kamar Baldwin and Nate Fowler played for the Bulldogs on that day, but Middle Tennessee has a completely new roster and a new head coach, so only the fans will have that loss fresh in their minds.
The Blue Raiders fell to the #4-ranked Virginia Cavaliers in their first game in the Bahamas, 74-52. They are 3-2 on the season, with no real quality wins. Middle Tennessee is not the tough program it was a couple of years ago, and may be just the team Butler needs to get its mojo back.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Butler: Get off to a hot start
The Bulldogs have never liked to play from behind, but over the last season plus, they’ve had to do it often. Butler wants to control the pace, run a deliberate offense, and wear down the opponent; they can’t do this when spotting the opponent an early lead. Thursday’s game could turn this trip into a disaster if Butler starts out sluggish again.
Middle Tennessee: Keep Butler’s offense frustrated
Middle Tennessee has the advantage of catching Butler at a time of offensive frustration. There was really nothing going for the Bulldogs on Wednesday — Baldwin and Jorgensen struggled, McDermott didn’t get enough shots, and Butler struggled to get their big men involved. If the Blue Raiders can play defense and prevent Butler from getting into a rhythm, they may coax another cold shooting night out of the Dawgs.