These feel like dire times for Xavier. From a peak of 8, their KenPom ranking has fallen to 21st. They haven't won in a week and haven't played well for twice that long. They're coming off their worst offensive performance of the year and heading on the road to try to outperform a team with a top ten offense. For all of that, Xavier is still in the top 5 in the polls, 21-3 on the year, and on track for a protected seed in the NCAA tournament.
These are closer to actual dire times for Butler. An 11-1 start put them into the top 10, but a 3-6 first half of Big East play has dropped them to a bubble. Their recent three-game winning streak has somewhat righted the ship, but their fans won't be as comfortable with a potential tournament bid as they were a couple of months ago. Their schedule down the stretch is comparatively favorable, but their margin for error is all but gone.
Roster(de)bating: How to fit Remy, LAJ, and JP?
Xavier can't defend in man and Butler can shoot over a zone. So...what to do? Is there personnel available to play solid defense?
Let's start with the bad news. Butler's offense is just as good as Xavier's. Since conference play the offenses have been almost identically efficient, albeit in different ways. Butler protects the ball very well and shoots 37% from behind the arc. They're also excellent from the line and grab about 33% of their misses. Oddly, the have assists on less than half of their made field goals and they also get blocked on 13% of their shot attempts. Still, what they do well, they do very well.
Defensively, the story is not as good for the Bulldogs. While Xavier's defense hasn't been great recently, it's still demonstrably better than Butler's, which can be downright awful. The one thing that Butler does well is force turnovers. They turn opponents over on 19.6% of possessions, which lines up well with Xavier's propensity for turning the ball over. Other than that, the Bulldogs can be had. They don't force teams to shoot poorly from anywhere, they don't block many shots, and they aren't very good on the defensive glass.
|Roosevelt Jones||Point Guard||Edmond Sumner|
|6'4", 225||Measurements||6'6", 183|
|Jones has been the point guard since Tyler Lewis's injury, moving from his usual starting spot off the ball. Whether or not this has contributed to Jones having by far his best season at Butler or not is debatable, but he has been head and shoulders better than his 15 previous seasons at Hinkle. He has a knack for getting in passing lanes, but is not great at keeping quick players in front of him. He scores exclusively inside the arc, shooting almost 50% from 2 point range.|
|Kellen Dunham||Shooting Guard||Myles Davis|
|6'6", 200||Measurements||6'2", 188|
|Ah, Kelli Dunham. Dunham is still the efficient scorer he was last season, problem is there is more scoring to be done this year than there was last year. Dunham is still most effective catching and shooting from beyond the arc. Dunham is not a tremendous athlete, which hampers him in avoiding the attentions of quicker players, but doesn't need much space to get a shot off. He is a player Xavier must accout for at all times on defense.|
|Kelan Martin||Small Forward||Remy Abell|
|6'6", 235||Measurements||6'4", 185|
|Martin has been a revelation this season for Butler, grabbing a starting role at the end of January and responding with 25.75 points per game so far in February. Martin can score from inside or outside and hits the defensive boards well. Those are the two main staples in his game as he doesn't create a lot of turnovers or distribute the ball that well, but he does those two things well enough to be someone the opposition has to plan for.|
|Andrew Chrabascz||Power Forward||Trevon Bluiett|
|6'7", 235||Measurements||6'6", 215|
|Chrabascz owes his effectiveness this year to fact he has been really hard to sgtop inside the arc. He is not shooting nearly as well from 3 as he did a year ago, but makes up for it by converting almost 55% of his shots from inside. He has been getting to the line and converting well, which probably is a result of his newfound inside game, but is a curiously bad rebounder for a player at his spot.|
|Tyler Wideman||Center||Jalen Reynolds|
|6'8", 245||Measurements||6'10", 238|
|Wideman has been a sneakily effective big man on conference play, ranking in the top 5 in OR% and Block rate. He also gets to the line a ton, but is shooting under 50% from there since Big East play started. What he does do is throw himself to the offensive boards better than anyone else on Butler and convert his second chances.|
The Butler bench is pretty shallow, featuring just two players who average more than 10 minutes a game. Chief among them is Tyler Lewis, who has only played 35 minutes in the last two games after missing four with injury. Lewis is only 5'11", but is a tremendous distributor on offense,which compensated for his lack of shooting. He is not a threat to score, but makes the players around him more effective in their efforts to do so.
The seond player off the bench will be Jordan Gathers, who has gathered sporadic playing time recently but got enough to torch St. John's for 18. Gathers is not exceptional at anything, but is a servicable freshman with enough upside to indicate he has a future at this level.
-Check the arc. Roosevelt Jones can only score from inside the arc. Tyler Wideman is an efficient interior scorer, but his usage rate is very low. Everyone else on the team is a below-average shooter from two-point range and the team as a whole only shoots 46.4% from two. Xavier's better bet is to run Butler off the arc and then work from there.
-Get the ball on the rim. Butler's defense isn't that effective when it isn't forcing turnovers, but they do well in doing that. If Xavier can get shots up, their advantage on the glass will make it a worthwhile pursuit even if the shots aren't falling. Too many turnovers will doom Xavier to another lackluster offensive performance.
-Avoid the early run. Xavier has gotten down big to a couple of teams not nearly as explosive Butler; if they give up a 17-1 or something early in the game, it's going to be a long climb back in at a hostile arena. Butler is going to come out primed to get a big win; Xavier has to keep the game within touching distance while they get their feet under them.