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Xavier v. Butler: Big East Tournament Preview

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Well here it is. Very likely, Xavier’s season rides on this game.

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-DePaul vs Xavier Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

This is the game that Xavier had to get to. After 32 games it comes down to a rather simple equation: with a win, Xavier is likely in, with a loss, they are likely out. This isn’t how it was drawn up months ago, but it does leave Xavier in control of their own destiny, a situation that a lot of teams would love to be in. The Musketeers struggled against DePaul, but ultimately handled business. The task in front of them is now substantially different.

Butler enters this game on the back of a loss to Seton Hall. Before being sucked into what is becoming the Hall’s signature late run, Butler had been rolling. The Bulldogs had won five in a row, including at Xavier and at Villanova, before that loss. They have all the markers in an opponent that X needs right now: a high KenPom, high RPI, and high SOS. Unfortunately, that all adds up to mean they are an intimidating opponent even for a team at full strength.

Team fingerprint:

Not a lot has changed here since the last time these teams met. The Bulldogs shoot the ball very well and don’t turn it over, but they don’t get on the offensive glass. Defensively they can be had inside and they aren’t great rebounders, but they cause turnovers and they don’t give up threes very much. Solid is the word that comes to mind.

Players:

Starters:

Starting matchups
Kamar Baldwin Point Guard Quentin Goodin
Freshman Class Freshman
6'0", 170 Measurements 6'4", 190
10.1/3.6/1.4 Game line 4.8/1.8/3.3
0.498/0.385/0.806 Shooting line 0.348/0.25/0.54
Q was magnificent last night, but Baldwin is going to give him little room to breathe out there. Baldwin also presents a very real threat shooting the ball should Xavier go zone.
Avery Woodson Shooting Guard J.P. Macura
Senior Class Junior
6'2", 190 Measurements 6'5", 203
8.9/2.5/0.7 Game line 14.5/4.3/2.9
0.44/0.422/0.792 Shooting line 0.419/0.331/0.81
Woodson is a pure shooter who rarely turns the ball over and rarely finds assists. He's the anti-JP.
Kethan Savage Small Forward Malcolm Bernard
Senior Class Senior
6'3", 205 Measurements 6'6", 202
8/2.4/1.6 Game line 6.3/3.7/1.6
0.447/0.273/0.728 Shooting line 0.402/0.37/0.596
Savage is going to have his hands full if Bernard drops into the post, or if he takes Trevon farther outside. Either way, he'll use the ball a lot on offense and go for steals on defense.
Andrew Chrabascz Power Forward Trevon Bluiett
Senior Class Junior
6'7", 230 Measurements 6'6", 215
11.1/4.6/3.2 Game line 18/5.9/2.1
0.449/0.349/0.75 Shooting line 0.432/0.369/0.758
Cabbage is the prototypical Butler player. He's a pick and pop four who really prefers not to get dirty inside but plays solid man up defense. He can't guard a 100% Trevon Bluiett. 85%? We'll see.
Tyler Wideman Center RaShid Gaston
Junior Class Senior
6'8", 240 Measurements 6'9", 239
7.5/5.2/0.4 Game line 8.3/6.5/0.7
0.608/0/0.671 Shooting line 0.599/0/0.541
These guys are almost mirrors of one another. Gaston is the better rebounder, Wideman is the better shooter. Both are more than happy to pound away in the paint all game long.

Reserves:

Kelan Martin is the big name off the bench. He goes for 16.1/5.8/1.1 on 42% from the floor and 35% from behind the arc. Martin plays more minutes than any other Bulldog save Chrabascz. Tyler Lewis also comes off the bench for over 20 minutes per game and gets 6.5/1.4/4.0 on 45% from the floor and 43% from deep. Nate Fowler, a 6-11 sophomore, will see time and is very effective on the offensive glass. Recently, that’s as deep as Chris Holtmann has cared to go.

Three questions:

- Tyrique? The smart money says no, but Xavier could really use another body, if only for depth. Sean O’Mara was very good last night, but another athlete on the glass would be a boon for the Musketeers.

- How “85%” is Trevon? Bluiett told Gus Johnson that he was 85% and then played the first half with no explosion at all. He looked a little better in terms of that in the second half, but now he’s playing on a bad ankle that has had less than 20 hours off.

- Who steps up? Yesterday it was Sean O’Mara going for 8/3/0 in 17 very good minutes that helped paper over some early cracks. Xavier is going to need an effort like that from someone unexpected again tonight.

Three keys:

- Shoot the ball better: Disregard anything that Butler may do, Xavier likely isn’t winning this game with a shooting line of .492/.250/.579. That kind of three point and free throw shooting isn’t beating many teams not name DePaul.

- Keep JP in attack mode: Macura had 13/3/6 with three steals and only two turnovers last night. He was the best version of JP, aggressive without being dumb, fast without being panicked. X needs that again tonight.

- Maintain momentum: It was possible to watch the team growing in confidence in the second half last night. As shots fell and Q threw down lobs, the swagger came back just a little bit. Coach Mack said that this team had a bad habit of getting punched in the face “and then just keep getting punched.” They can’t come out looking for that tonight, they need to hit Butler first and hit them hard.