Time and Date: Tuesday, February 26 @ 7:00 p.m. ET
Location: Hinkle Fieldhouse (Indianapolis, IN)
Records: Butler (15-12) | Providence (15-13)
Rankings: Butler (#49 NET) | Providence (#82 NET)
TV Channel: FS1
Watch Online: FOX Sports GO
Oddly, this year’s BIG EAST schedule was designed in such a way that Butler and Providence will meet for the first time this season on February 26; the first leg of the Bulldogs-Friars match-up will take place at Hinkle Fieldhouse, where Butler absolutely must defend homecourt to keep its NCAA Tournament dreams alive.
Providence has struggled mightily in recent weeks against everybody not named St. John’s. The Friars have won just two of their last seven—both wins coming against the Johnnies— and find themselves alone at the very bottom of the BIG EAST standings.
Butler, meanwhile, is tied up with Georgetown for sixth place and is somehow, some way, still in the mix for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs are projected as one of the final four teams in or one of the first four teams out according to all notable bracketologists. In their lone game last week, the Dawgs missed a great resume-building opportunity by losing at Marquette.
The mission is pretty clear for the Bulldogs on Tuesday; they have to go in and take care of business. A home loss to Providence would be devastating at this point. Butler needs to win and needs to win convincingly. Not only is the at-large resume at stake, but the Bulldogs are also trying to play their way out of the conference’s bottom four—thereby avoiding a Wednesday game in the conference tournament.
Providence is not locked into a bottom four spot either. With Butler, Creighton, and Butler again remaining on the schedule, the Friars will look to win out and climb towards the middle of the pack in the BIG EAST.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Butler: Play 40 Minutes of Defense
Butler’s offense is a lost cause this year. There have been very few games where the Bulldogs have not struggled to score at some point. Kamar Baldwin simply doesn’t have the juice (yet) to take over any game like Kelan Martin used to and the rest of the team is wildly inconsistent offensively. However, Butler has played elite defense quite often this year. Unfortunately, when Butler starts to struggle offensively, it usually carries over quickly to the defensive end. There have been a number of games this year that Butler has controlled for 30 minutes and lost because of a disastrous 10-minute stretch. Butler needs to stay committed on the defensive end throughout this one, regardless of how things are going offensively.
Providence: Destroy Butler in the Post
It is no coincidence that Providence has been more successful against St. John’s than any other team in the conference this year. What do we know about St. John’s? The Johnnies are small and don’t play a center. Sure enough, stats show that the Providence dominated St. John’s on the boards both times they met (in the first meeting, the margin was 43-23!). Furthermore, big man Nate Watson was the leading scorer for the Friars both times. Watson is having a great year and has been especially good lately. He’s actually undersized for a center, but he’s tough and skilled. The Friars also have some bigger guards that help with rebounding. Butler’s two post guys, Nate Fowler and Joey Brunk, are neither elite rebounders nor elite defenders. If the Friars want to steal a win at Hinkle, they’ll need a significant advantage in rebounds and paint points.