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Xavier v. Butler: Preview, matchups, keys to the game

Xavier travels to Indy for a timeless rivalry.

The student section parking before the game.
Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Round up the cows and move those milking stools! Muck out the stalls and break out the good coveralls, it’s time for basketball at Hinkle! Butler comes into this game having finished all their farm chores dropped a game at Creighton after three straight wins, including the one over Villanova. You may remember what happened when Xavier met Villanova this week.

While all the games to this point have mattered, this one may be the most important yet for the fan base. Ever since the Clock Game and the ensuing (alleged) destruction of a water fountain, both groups of fans have taken this game seriously. Last year, Xavier won both games going away. The year prior, Xavier took two out of three. That recent Musketeer domination has in no way dampened the heat of the rivalry. When this one tips off, it will be on.

Players

Starters

Tyler Lewis Point Guard Edmond Sumner
Senior Class Sophomore
5'11", 170 Measurements 6'6", 183
7.4/1.6/4.3 Game Line 15.3/4.5/4.8
.543/.419/.795 Shooting Line .482/.278/.716
The only player on KenPom's best comparisons for Lewis in both of the past two seasons has been Dee Davis, who is actually a decent likeness on offense. Two things he does not do like Dee is eat minutes effectively and defend. Every PG in Big East play has scored at least 20 against Butler and Lewis's assist rate has dropped to 14.4%, so he may be struggling with the size and pace of the league again. That being said, he is a great distributor on his day and can take care of the ball very well.
Kamar Baldwin Shooting Guard JP Macura
Freshman Class Junior
6'0", 170 Measurements 6'5", 203
8.5/2.9/1.3 Game Line 14.4/4.2/2.4
.513/.452/.834 Shooting Line .413/.333/.839
First things first, this guy turns the opponent over a ton. He is in the top 10 in the nation in steal rate and has 9 multi-steal games this year. He rebounds pretty well for a 6' tall guard and scores efficently when called on, although he is not even a secondary option for Butler's offense. The whistle has been pretty unkind to the hyper-aggresive Baldwin in conference play, being exmplified against Providence when he fouled out in 15 minutes.
Kelan Martin Small Forward Trevon Bluiett
Junior Class Junior
6'7", 220 Measurements 6'6", 200
16.8/5.5/1.4 Game Line 17.3/5.9/2.3
.405/.353/.838 Shooting Line .411/.336/.803
A year after taking the highest percentage of his team's shots of any player in the conference, Martin is back with pretty much the same M.O. His 34.9 EFG% in conference play indicates that maybe he should not be jacking 30% of posessions he is out there, but what do I know? He has the highest defensive rebounding rate the the league, presumably because he doesn't want to chance letting one of his teammates touch the ball, and is an excellent free throw shooter.
Andrew Chrabascz Power Forward Malcolm Bernard
Senior Class Senior
6'7", 230 Measurements 6'6",202
11.4/5.1/2.9 Game Line 5.9/4.0/1.7
.468/.457/.734 Shooting Line .407/.579/.400
I don't feel like navigating the spelling of this dude's name again, but he gets 11.4 PPG while shooting on only 18% of available posessions. His 3 point percentage has dropped to 30 in conference play, but he remains a 4 who can stretch the floor on X or get inside and grab a board, which he does at the 10th best rate in the Big East.
Tyler Wideman Center RaShid Gaston
Junior Class Senior
6'8", 240 Measurements 6'9", 239
8.4/5.2/0.4 Game Line 7.2/6.3/0.6
.659/.000/.620 Shooting Line .576/.000/.486
This guy is once again one of the top rebounders in the Big East on both ends, once again scores effectively, and is once again way down in the pecking order on offense. He is blocking fewer shots and fouling less than last year, two things which likely go hand in hand, but other than that remains a very similar player to a season ago.

Reserves

Memphis transfer Avery Woodson is the only player off the bench who gets more than 20 minutes a game, being a mostly catch and shoot guard who shoots 43% from three. No stats are available on how well he catches. 6’6” wing Sean McDermott does most of his work from deep. He started against UC and scored 7, although he has only played 44 minutes in conference play. Kethan Savage backs up either guard position and has been playing himself into more playing time in conference play, scoring double digits in 4 out of 5 games thus far. 6’10” Nate Fowler spells Wideman at times and is an adept rebounder, especially on the offensive end where he has pulled down 6 over the past 2 games.

Team Fingerprint:

Butler doesn’t offensive rebound well, but the rest of their offense is top notch. They turn the ball over less than all but 11 other teams in the nation, they shoot 38.7% from behind the arc, and they shoot very well inside. They don’t play a fast pace, but all the things they do well add up to having the 18th most efficient offense in the nation. Again, lest you’ve forgotten, Villanova was the last elite offense Xavier faced and these teams profile similarly.

Defensively, Butler can be and has been, beaten up inside. Opponents shoot 50.4% inside the arc and get 52% of their points in there. Should anyone bother throwing the ball to Sean O’Mara, he figures to have a field day. What the Bulldogs do very well is force offenses to stagnate. Only two other teams in the nation allow fewer assists on made field goals than Butler. That means a lot of iso ball and standing three pointers. Teams that get the ball inside beat Butler, St. John’s made only four three pointers in their win, but settling for threes is a recipe for losing.

Three Questions:

- Where is Xavier mentally? That was a complete hammering the last time out and one of those rare games where nothing goes right. Xavier is heading right back into a hostile environment in a road conference game, they need to respond with some ferocity, not the complacency the may have crept in late on Tuesday.

- Has the problem been fixed? Xavier’s offense was awful against Villanova. It was a combination of too many three pointers, not enough effort to get the ball in the post, standing around, and a whole host of other things. Seeing an offensive plan early would be an indication that Coach Mack saw the same thing everyone else did.

- #Myleswatch? Myles came back in a game in which Coach Mack said he wasn’t sure how he’d fit in and ended up playing 13 really ineffective minutes. Myles will be a factor if this team is going anywhere, but he looked very much like someone who had missed 15 games.

Three Keys:

- Feed the post: Sean O’Mara was the most effective player Xavier had against Nova and has posted an efficiency of 131 in conference play. RaShid Gaston has been more up and down, but he’s remained an effective presence down low when given enough touches. Both players can be effective against Butler, neither got the ball enough on Tuesday.

- Don’t panic: When Villanova went on their run, X pretty much folded. There is going to be a big run again in this game, they are part and parcel of going on the road in conference, the Musketeers need to stop the damage before it hits 23-4 this time.

- Knock down threes: Even if people don’t like the amount in which they come, Xavier is going to have to keep shooting from deep. The book is going to be to pack it in and make the Musketeers prove they can do it. The only way to beat that is making shots.