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

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Xavier opens the toughest two weeks of the year with a trip to a barn in Indiana.

Last time Xavier and Butler played, the Muskies took a 3-2 lead in the first minute of the game and never relinquished it. Butler cut it to 1 late in the first half, but Xavier responded with a 9-2 run to go into the half with a stranglehold on the game.

That game was at Cintas, and it wasn’t easy. This game is going to be at Hinkle, and it figures to be even more difficult. After a three-game losing streak, Butler has gotten healthy by winning 5 of 6 against the bottom half of the league. This is a big game for both teams, and Xavier tries to establish separation between the top two and the rest of the league and Butler tries to stay within touching distance of the Muskies.

Team fingerprint

Despite how they looked against Villanova’s relentless onslaught, Butler is a really tough defense. They don’t specialize in one facet of defensive play so much as they’re just fairly solid all around. They make life difficult for teams trying to score in the lane more than pressuring the arc. They’re a bit above average at forcing turnovers and protecting the glass. If they have a weakness, it’s that they can be foul prone.

On offense, Butler rides good shooting and ball security to being the second-best offense in a very good offensive league. They’re not much for offensive rebounding or getting to the line, but they can score the ball at all three levels and generally don’t make a lot of mistakes. They also shoot 80% from the line in conference play, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Personnel

  • Butler’s ballhandlers, Kelan Martin and Kamar Baldwin, are nails from the line. Martin shoots 86%, Baldwin’s 74% isn’t elite, but it’s still very good.
  • McDermott (44%) and Jorgenson (39%) can shoot it from deep, but no one else on the team is even as good as Naji Marshall.
  • Butler is 250th in the nation in A/FGM. They get a lot of what they get in isolation.

Starters

Starting matchups
Kamar Baldwin Point Guard Quentin Goodin
Sophomore Class Sophomore
6'1", 170 Measurements 6'4", 190
15.6/5.3/3.1 Game line 8.1/3/5.2
0.445/0.34/0.742 Shooting line 0.431/0.286/0.825
Baldwin is a decent shooter and a good defender, but he's not great in distributing the ball. He doesn't turn it over a lot, either. He essentially sets the Bulldogs go it alone offense.
Aaron Thompson Shooting Guard J.P. Macura
Junior Class Senior
6'2", 190 Measurements 6'5", 203
5.1/1.3/3.6 Game line 12.7/4.3/3.1
0.415/0.222/0.559 Shooting line 0.459/0.353/0.831
Thompson and Baldwin essentially form a double point. Thompson distributes the ball a lot more, but he doesn't always care which he team he's throwing it to.
Paul Jorgensen Small Forward Trevon Bluiett
Junior Class Senior
6'2", 185 Measurements 6'6", 202
11.3/3.3/2.6 Game line 19.2/5.6/2.7
0.434/0.388/0.821 Shooting line 0.456/0.424/0.817
Jorgensen can shoot it and it he takes care of the ball very well. He's undersized for a swing and doesn't rebound well, but he'll generally find his shots.
Kelan Martin Power Forward Naji Marshall
Senior Class Freshperson
6'7", 220 Measurements 6'7", 218
19.8/6.5/2.2 Game line 7.5/3.3/1.5
0.447/0.333/0.861 Shooting line 0.542/0.346/0.719
Martin's efficiency is only 110, but he gets his every game. In conference play, he's shooting 40% from behind the arc and has the third highest usage rate in the Big East.
Tyler Wideman Center Kerem Kanter
Senior Class Senior
6'8", 240 Measurements 6'10", 240
9.7/5.2/0.4 Game line 10.3/5.3/0.5
0.693/0/0.783 Shooting line 0.556/0.35/0.765
Wideman crushes the offensive glass and rarely misses inside the arc (70.4%). He's also very good from the line for a big man, which does a lot to obscure the fact he turns the ball over 20% of the time he touches it.

Reserves

30.7% of Butler’s minutes come from their bench. Leading the way is Sean McDermott, a 6-6 swing man with a 65.3% TS%. He’s trouble wherever he catches the ball. Nate Fowler is a 6-10 big who is great on the offensive glass and in the post. Fowler blocks shots well, but can get himself in foul trouble chasing those. Henry Baddley is the only other Bulldog who plays double digit minutes. He’s shooting 52% behind the arc, but in a tiny sample size of 27 shots.

Three questions

  • Which Tre shows up? It has been fairly well documented at this point that Trevon Bluiett has been sensational at home this year and... not great on the road. Xavier needs Home Tre to make the trip to Indiana to stand a reasonable chance at winning this game. Dropping 14 points on 5-14/2-7/5-8 shooting probably isn’t going to get it done.
  • Does Butler get a home whistle? Xavier also leads the league in defensive free throw rate, i.e., not sending opponents to the line. Butler hasn’t been effective in getting to the line this season, but they’re been elite at converting when they get there. If “Hinkle magic” comes in the form of a friendly whistle, Butler will harvest from the stripe.
  • How will JP go out at Hinkle? JP has been a bit anonymous over the past three games (after he basically beat Seton Hall by himself), but he know the Butler faithful love him and nothing gets him going like the adoration he receives from opposing fan bases. I’m pretty sure Butler has at least one of his buckets at Hinkle seared into its collective memory; maybe he has another one in him tonight.

Three keys

  • Get out early. Xavier doesn’t need to hit the first media timeout up 14-5 or anything, but they can’t afford a sluggish start against Butler on the road. Games get late early against teams that take care of the ball and can execute at the line, and Xavier doesn’t want to be chasing this one from early on.
  • Hassle Kelan Martin. Martin and Kamar Baldwin are the big guns for Butler, but I think Martin is the tougher matchup. If he gets rolling at home - where he shoots .497/.398/.886 - he’s capable of winning games by himself. I’d expect to see Naji and Kaiser get the bulk of the time making Martin’s life difficult.
  • Force misses. Xavier actually has the best defensive efficiency in the league right now, but they don’t get it by traditional means. X doesn’t force a lot of turnovers and they’ll give up their share of clean looks, but they are leading the Big East in defensive rebounding. X generally kills possessions after one shot; their defense tonight hinges on keeping Butler from getting hot.