Time and Date: Tuesday, March 5 @ 6:00 p.m. ET
Location: Hinkle Fieldhouse (Indianapolis, IN)
Records: Butler (15-14) | Xavier (16-13)
Rankings: Butler (#59 NET) | Xavier (#70 NET)
TV Channel: FS1
Watch Online: FOX Sports GO
Xavier and Butler clash Tuesday at Hinkle Fieldhouse and, improbably, Xavier is now the team playing for a potential at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. While the Musketeers are still a longshot, they are included in Joe Lunardi’s “Next Four Out,” along with Georgetown and Creighton. Butler, meanwhile, has dropped completely out of the picture after three straight losses.
Xavier’s season, conversely, has become quite a story as the Travis Steele’s squad has now won five straight and is tied for third in the BIG EAST; on February 24, the Musketeers bested the same Villanova team that ran Butler out of the gym on Saturday.
The bright side for Butler is that this match-up has become something of a rivalry, with bad blood brewing on both sides. Despite this season careening off the rails for the Bulldogs, they will likely have no trouble getting motivated for this one. Adding to the motivation is the memory of the first Butler-Xavier game this year. Butler led by ten points with about five minutes remaining before a colossal meltdown allowed Xavier to steal the win.
That being said, it will be interesting to see what the Bulldogs bring to this game. They have looked lifeless and defeated over the last couple weeks, and the Musketeers will come aggressive and hungry for a win. Naji Marshall has been on a tear lately and is a tough cover for anybody, but especially a team struggling like Butler is.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Butler: Soul Searching
I’m not entirely certain what “soul searching” means, but coach LaVall Jordan said after the Bulldogs’ most recent loss that some “soul searching” was in order; soul searching with two games left in the regular season certainly doesn’t sound ideal. Whatever the case, Butler has to dig down and find some inspiration to compete with the red-hot Musketeers.
Xavier can win this one by exploiting the mismatch that Marshall will inevitably enjoy against the Bulldogs. Butler has used a bevy of different guys at the 3-4 positions, and while all of them have strengths and weaknesses, none of them are complete players. Marshall’s defenders throughout the night will either be too small or too slow to guard him. The one man that stands a chance is Christian David, but his minutes are often limited on account of his offensive weaknesses. I expect Marshall to have a big night.