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Butler Resumes Season Against Villanova

Wildcats present difficult challenge in Dawgs’ first game back from COVID pause

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Butler Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

THE FACTS

Time and Date: Wednesday, December 16 @ 7:00 pm ET

Records: Butler (1-0) | Villanova (5-1)

Rankings: Butler (#62 KenPom) | Villanova (#3 KenPom)

TV Channel: FS1

Watch Online: FOX Sports GO


GAME PREVIEW

No team wants to take three weeks off in the middle of its season, but especially a team that is still trying to figure out its rotation in a year of heavy roster turnover. The Butler Bulldogs narrowly escaped an upset against Western Michigan in their season debut before shutting down as a result of a positive COVID test. After missing five games, they return to face KenPom’s #3 team in the land, the Villanova Wildcats.

Nova is coming off a win against Georgetown where they blew the doors off of Capital One Arena in the second half, outscoring the Hoyas 43-17 en route to a 13-point victory. The Cats’ slow start can perhaps be attributed to the fact that it was their sixth game away from home to start the season; but they will be well-rested and home at last to face Butler.

It’s a bit of a nightmare scenario for Butler’s head coach LaVall Jordan. We last saw Jordan scrambling to find a lineup that would work against Western Michigan, giving a combined 70 minutes to freshmen in the opener. Jordan was likely counting on the relatively soft slate to begin the season to get his inexperienced team up to speed, but the Dawgs missed games against Eastern Illinois, Northern Kentucky, St. John’s, and DePaul. To make matters worse, Butler wasn’t able to begin practicing as a full squad until December 9.

Villanova is unlikely to pity the Bulldogs, however. Butler has an odd recent history of success against Villanova, winning four of their last nine matchups despite Nova being heavily favored more often than not. In their most recent pairing, Butler triumphed on a buzzer-beating three from departed All-BIG EAST guard Kamar Baldwin. The Wildcats don’t intend to let this one come down to the last possession and after a wake-up call against Georgetown (the best kind of wake-up call – one where you still win), they will likely come out aggressive and focused.

The point guard matchup in this one will be a treat as seniors Aaron Thompson and Collin Gillespie go toe-to-toe. Gillespie is averaging 15.2 ppg and 4.5 apg in the young season and Thompson scored a career-high 21 points against Western Michigan. Butler’s best chance to compete in this game is for Thompson to neutralize Gillespie’s impact, but even then, the Dawgs will have to contend with, among others, Caleb Daniels, who scored 18 in just 25 minutes in Nova’s last game.

Expect the Wildcats to win this one fairly easily. It will be a surprise if the Bulldogs even manage to hang around.