Time and Date: Sunday, January 13 @ 12:00 p.m. ET
Location: Cintas Center
Records: Butler (10-6) | Xavier (10-7)
Rankings: Butler (#39 KenPom) | Xavier (#82 KenPom)
TV Channel: CBSSN
Butler travels to Ohio on Sunday to face an opponent led by a former Bulldog. Xavier coach Travis Steele didn’t play or coach at Butler, but he did attend the school in the early 2000s. He and his family still root for the Bulldogs—when they’re not playing Xavier. Apart from the Steele-Butler connection, there is not a lot of love between the two programs who will be facing off at the Cintas Center.
A few chippy contests and controversial finishes have contributed to Butler-Xavier becoming something of a rivalry. Last year, Xavier won both games between the two teams, but Butler is likely favored this year. Nevertheless, Xavier comes into this one with some momentum, having beaten Georgetown earlier this week. Butler lost to Georgetown to open conference play.
Butler is coming off a one-point loss to Seton Hall, and the Bulldogs bring road woes with them to Cincinnati. They have lost six straight true road games going back to last year. Butler has shown that it can be a very formidable team when things are clicking this season, but if the Dawgs want to start piling up wins they will need to improve their road performance.
Zach Hankins led the Musketeers last time out with 23 points and 10 boards. Butler will counter with Joey Brunk who is coming off the best game of his career, where he posted 20 points and 10 rebounds. Xavier’s three-point shooting has been abysmal, so the Musketeers will have to execute their offense effectively and get good looks for Hankins down low.
One of Butler’s biggest struggles, meanwhile, has been a penchant for slow starts. On the road, and especially in an arena that will likely be somewhat hostile, the Bulldogs can’t afford to dig themselves an early hole.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Xavier: Bully the Bulldogs
Joey Brunk is tough, but a tad slow. Nate Fowler is a tad slow and a tad underphysical. Everybody else that gets meaningful minutes for Butler is too small to truly play in the paint. Xavier’s shooting woes are well-chronicled, so if the Musketeers want to score they need to outphysical Butler inside, get to the rim, and get to the free throw line.
Butler: Bombs away
Butler has great three-point shooting ability. The Bulldogs don’t always light up the gym, but they certainly can. If McDermott, Jorgensen, Tucker, Baldwin, and Fowler come out hitting threes, Xavier may not have an answer even if they effectively score inside. The Bulldogs can also take the crowd out of it by hitting from long-range.