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Xavier v. Butler: Preview, players, keys to the game, et c.

X has a chance to go back over .500 in Big East play and grab some momentum against Coach Steele’s alma mater.

NCAA Basketball: Butler at Seton Hall Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

What do you make of Xavier two weeks into the Big East season? You can make an argument that their best performance was against Seton Hall, right up until they allowed the Pirates a 34-14 run to end the game. They’ve needed huge comebacks beat DePaul and Georgetown; only the Marquette game has been conclusive. They could be 3-1 in the league just as easily as they could be 0-4.

There are a lot of things you can point to that indicate that this team is right there.

For that matter, what do you make of Butler? They beat good Mississippi and Florida teams before the Thanksgiving weekend was out and had Indiana dead to rights before coughing up a 21-9 run in the last 10 minutes to lose by a bucket. More recently, they lost a rematch with Florida in which it took them 15 possessions to score their first bucket and a home game against Georgetown in which they never had the ball with a chance to tie in the entire second half. They’re 1-2 in conference, looking up at - among others - the Muskies.

Team fingerprint

Ball security is paramount against the Bulldogs; forcing turnovers is the only thing they’re remotely good at. Their defensive rebounding is solidly mediocre, and they are well below average in forcing bad shots and keeping teams off the free throw line. Two out of every five opponent shots comes from deep, as they’re more than happy to concede the arc.

Butler’s offense is in the top 25 in the nation in TO%. Their EFG% is above average but not spectacular, thanks largely to a 36% success rate from deep as a team. They don’t get to the glass or the line very well as a team, but they do take a good portion of their shots from deep.

Players

Aaron Thompson Point Guard Quentin Goodin
Sophomore Class Junior
6'2" 185 Measurements 6'4", 194
6.4/1.8/4.3 Game line 12.6/2.9/5.4
0.568/0.417/0.619 Shooting line 0.37/0.273/0.688
Thompson is an extremely pass first point guard who is out there to set things up and hassle the opponent's point guard. When he does score, it is primarily at the rim and he has endured a couple of bumps this year in the turnover department, but is usually steady enough to keep Kamar Baldwin off the ball.
Kamar Baldwin Shooting Guard Paul Scruggs
Junior Class Sophomore
6'1" 195 Measurements 6'3", 200
16.9/5.2/3.9 Game line 12.6/4.9/2.9
0.423/0.282/0.843 Shooting line 0.506/0.429/0.809
Coming into this season, Baldwin was given the keys to the car on offense and has responded by shooting on almost a third of available posessions. The results have been wildly inconsistent, with Baldwin carrying Butler against MTSU, Florida (the first time), and Creighton, while also shooting them out of games at times. He is coming off a 10-26 performance against Seton Hall and will be Xavier's primary concern on defense.
Henry Baddley Small Forward Kyle Castlin
Junior Class Senior
6'4" 180 Measurements 6'4", 193
6.5/3.1/0.6 Game line 4.5/2.9/0.6
0.468/0.356/0.8 Shooting line 0.433/0.217/0.679
Baddley is another guy who has seen his role grow with the departure of Kelan Martin, although he is by no means option 1A on offense. What he does have going for him is the 4th highest ORtg in the conference, due mostly to his minuscule turnover numbers and 57% mark from deep. He is primarily a catch and shoot guy who put up 14 against Georgetown 11 days ago.
Sean McDermott Power Forward Naji Marshall
Junior Class Sophomore
6'6" 195 Measurements 6'7", 222
10.4/3.1/0.5 Game line 13.1/7.8/3.2
0.447/0.42/0.824 Shooting line 0.404/0.21/0.716
McDermott is anything but an old school Big East 4, shooting over 80% of his attempts from beyond the arc. He is an excellent three point shooter, vary rarely distributes or gets to the line, and almost never gets to the glass. He is another one who will try to take advantage of defenses collapsing on Baldwin and find an open spot on the perimeter.
Joey Brunk Center Zach Hankins
Sophomore Class Senior
6'11" 230 Measurements 6'11", 245
9.2/4.8/0.9 Game line 10.5/4.9/0.8
0.675/1/0.677 Shooting line 0.712/0/0.652
Brunk is Butler most efficient offensive player, and may bring more to the table than anyone else on the Bulldogs roster. He is a dependable post scorer, uses his motor to be one of the best offensive rebounders in the conference, and is the most fouled player in the Big East. He has been in double digits in all 3 conference outings and is coming off a double-double of 20 and 10 against Seton Hall's gigantic front line.

Reserves

Butler’s bench is essentially three guys deep, led by Senior guard Paul Jorgensen, who is behind only Baldwin in minutes per game. He is another player who prefers to do his scoring from deep, although he will get to the rim when afforded the opportunity, and averages 13 per game. Spelling the bigs is 6’11” Nate Fowler, who does most things just a little bit worse than Brunk. Joining the rotation recently is Duke transfer Jordan Tucker who is a 6’7” wing who is currently rebounding a third of opponents’ misses. He has struggled to score the ball against decent opposition, and is 4-23 from the floor in conference play.

Three questions

-Can Quentin Goodin go? Xavier’s PG is sporting a fresh cut but still day-to-day with a knee problem. Aside from his obvious importance to the offense, Goodin has excelled at taking perimeter scorers out of games. Paul Jorgensen is going to have to work a lot harder for his 13 points per if Q is anything close to 100%.

-How much more of the double pivot will we see? Tyrique Jones and Zach Hankins on the floor together was a revelation against Georgetown; Butler is a much more perimeter-oriented team though. The Bulldogs rarely go bigger than 6’7” at the four; if having both big men on the floor is effective enough to make Butler adjust, that’s going to be a huge boon for X.

-What kind of defensive team is this? Elias Harden was super helpful in jarring a couple of big jumpers against Georgetown, but he also stood out on the defensive end with his energy level on top of the 2-3. That zone completely changed a game that appeared to be circling the drain. Will Travis Steele stick with a man approach against Butler, or will he be willing to throw the team into a zone for long stretches if it stays effective?

Three keys

-Control the ball. Xavier’s ball security was sensational last time out, and that was with the team’s best ball manager (starting PG and loyal Banners reader Quentin Goodin) out. Goodin’s return will portend only good for the long-term TO rate of the team, but he could use for his teammates to continue to have the sticky fingers they demonstrated in coming back from the dead during the mid-week fixture.

-Pound the paint. Xavier’s 47 two-point field goal attempts against Georgetown was a season high and in the top 5 of the team’s efforts in Big East play. Naji Marshall is a ridiculously effective scorer from weird angles in the mid-range and in. Paul Scruggs is a machine in the paint. Q is far more effective close to the bucket than he is 21 feet away, and I don’t think I need to remind you all that Zach Hankins is 23rd in the country in 2P% and Tyrique Jones isn’t far behind him. That is this team’s strength, and they need to lean into it relentlessly.

-Make Joey Brunk work on defense. I know this is oddly specific, but Brunk is an excellent scorer anywhere inside the arc. He doesn’t block a lot of shots, though, and he’s not a great defender. While he doesn’t foul a ton, he’s susceptible to being worked a bit on the block. Xavier should do whatever they can to diminish his efficiency on offense, and grind him down a bit on the other end is probably their best bet.