Last we saw the Butler Bulldogs, they bounced back from a heartbreaking defeat at the hands of the Indiana Hoosiers. The Dawgs defeated the Presbyterian Blue Hose 76-67 earlier this week, and will now play their second game in four days and third since last Saturday.
Kamar Baldwin and Butler will welcome the UC Irvine Anteaters to Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Anteaters and Bulldogs are meeting for the first time ever, at least dating back to the 1949-50 season per Sports-Reference. And it could be a doozy of a showdown in Indy.
UC Irvine is 11-2 on the year thus far. Coming out of the Big West Conference, the Anteaters have been mighty impressive. They have two wins against Top 100 KenPom teams so far, having defeated the Texas A&M Aggies and Saint Mary’s Gaels.
They’ve faced teams ranked no worse than 265th on KenPom (besides D2 Life Pacific), with six wins accumulated against the Top 200. Their lone losses on the season have come to the Toledo Rockets and Utah State Aggies, each of whom are ranked 64th and 51st right now. So, that 11-2 record ain’t too fraudulent at the moment.
Despite that 11-2 record, nobody is really blowing the doors off offensively for the Anteaters. Their leading scorer is junior guard Max Hazzard, but Hazzard is just putting up 10.7 points per game. There’s a lot of balance here, with five players on the roster averaging at least 8.0 points per game. Two are averaging that right on the dot — Eyassu Worku and John Edgar Jr. Elsewhere, Robert Cartwright has put up 8.1 points per game, while freshman Collin Welp has 8.6 points per game.
UC Irvine has profiled well defensively thus far. Teams are shooting just 41.1 percent on 2-point tries, the 7th-best mark in the nation. Their eFG% allowed is 22nd in the country, and their Adjusted Defensive Efficiency of 94.8 ranks 37th. Butler has done solidly in all these departments this season, so the Anteaters will definitely have their hands full. Look for Welp as well as senior Elston Jones to provide an interior presence as they’ve done this season. They’re the team’s leading shot blockers, with Jones posting a gaudy Block% of 9.3 percent this season.
Butler has plenty more punch in the form of Baldwin as well as Sean McDermott and Joey Brunk lately. What these three can provide can and should be enough for Butler to get the W for their penultimate game in December. But it should no doubt be an intriguing one as UC Irvine is a legitimately good team.
HOW TO WATCH
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Watch Online: Fox Sports Go