There are no non-pivotal games for Xavier at this point as the Muskies try to get to the all-important (according to me, several times) ten-win mark in conference play. Playing at Hinkle Fieldhouse is never and easy task, even in a down year for Butler. I turned to Dirkus Callahan of Butler Hoops for a peek into the mind of a Butler fan at this juncture.
BOTP: The transition to the Big East came at a tough time for Butler with Clarke and Smith graduating, Coach Stevens heading to the NBA, and then Jones going down injured.Two-thirds of the way through the season, how has this team matched up to your expectations?
BH: It depends on when you would have asked me. Prior to the season, I predicted their conference record would be somewhere right around 4-14 and I wasn't alone in that. After the non-conference portion of the schedule, with their only two losses by a combined four points to Oklahoma State and LSU, myself and a lot of Butler fans got our hopes up and thought something in the neighborhood of .500 in conference might be possible. Overall, I do think this team has met my expectations, considering what they lost from last season.
BOTP: Andrew Chrabascz - in addition to being the bane of phonics teachers everywhere - has really come along as an offensive option for Butler; did you expect this from him? What is his ceiling going forward?
BH: No, other than the people that were able to take in practices prior to the season, I don't think anyone saw this coming from him. He was the least heralded recruit in a class that was ranked in the bottom half of the Big East. He was undersized and lacked the athleticism to make up for it. His nickname (The Chrabascz Patch Kid) lacks any intimidation whatsoever. How else can I insult him?
In any case, I think what you see from him now is pretty much what you're going to get, though I'm sure he can make some improvements. His jump shot is probably the part of his game where he can have the most development, and it's already pretty good, though we haven't seen it much in game action. His ceiling, in my opinion, will be a slightly different version of Matt Howard (Flops currently not included).
BOTP: Butler is 3 OT losses from being 5-6 in conference and still in contention for a top-four finish; does this team have what it takes to climb back into contention in the conference? Can they make a run for a post-season berth of some sort?
BH: They were also a few shots away from getting beat by Ball State, Princeton and Vanderbilt in the non-conference schedule, which makes me think they'll end up close to my original prediction of 4-14. They are getting better, and they're starting to get more consistent contributions from Chrabascz and Brown. The bad part is that the majority of the Big East is also getting better, so that's going to make it tough. If I had to pick a postseason berth, it will likely be the CBI or nothing.
BOTP: Kellen Dunham's 2P% is way down this year; is he overmatched trying to be the primary scorer in the Big East, or does he just need some help that he's not getting right now?
BH: I'd have to go with both. As much as they've tried to develop him into a great scorer, Dunham isn't the ideal guy to be creating his own shot, and he also needs to add some strength to be able to finish better in the paint. For this team though, he's been the only consistent option from the perimeter, so opponents never really do have to help off him. Much like it's been for most of the conference season, Butler is just a player or two away from being a solid Big East squad in my opinion.
BOTP: What does Butler need to do to come away with a win on Tuesday? What do they have to avoid doing that would doom them?
BH: Offensively, they're going to have to hit some threes, that's been the weak spot in conference for Xavier's defense, so guys like Barlow, Brown and Fromm are going to have to step up their game from the perimeter since I assume Dunham will be blanketed most of the night.
Defensively, they'll need to cut off driving lanes and avoid fouling the Musketeers and keep Xavier off the offensive glass. They'll also likely need to double down on Stainbrook at times, which will make cutting down on those driving lanes difficult.
They (both players and coaches) will have to be able to avoid making mental mistakes down the stretch of Tuesday's game if they want pull out the win. They've had difficulty doing that for the majority of the season though, but we certainly hope they find a way to do it on Tuesday. Enjoy the game!