Davis struggled a little bit offensively in the win over SLU, but his defense was crucial to the team's win. He still made some plays, and finished with five assists and only two turnovers, but couldn't get his shot going at all. Against Butler, defense will once again be the most important task for Redford, as he takes on the Bulldogs leading scorer, averaging 16.5 points per game. One thing that makes Clarke such a tough player to guard is he doesn't give you much to key on as a defender. When he is working a defender in an iso situation he pulls up for jumpers, attacks the rim, and gets off mid-range shots at nearly an equal rate. He's also nearly as effective going left as he is going right. The Musketeers did a fantastic job on him the first time around, limiting him to a 3-of-11 performance from the field, including 1-of-7 from beyond the arc, and never allowed him to get into a rhythm. It's a lot to ask for a similar performance at Hinkle, but the Musketeers have already laid the blueprint for how to contain him once, and Davis' defense is crucial to the game-plan. Butler is 8-1 when Clarke scores 20 or more points.
Moderate Edge Butler
The last time these two teams played, Christon battled through that serious arm infection after being cut by Timmy Whelan's no longer existing front teeth in practice. He could barely lift his right arm, and as a result, only took two shots the entire game. So while Butler has seen the freshman, they haven't really had a chance to see him play the way he typically does… at least up close and personal. Butler really doesn't have anybody particularly fit to guard Christon though, so that's going to be a very interesting match-up. It's going to require some team defense from Butler; expect lots of defenders flopping in the lane. Dunham is an instant offense kind of guy, but he's always on the court playing starter minutes. He's actually just shooting 35.6 percent from three, but he's attempted a ton of them on the year, and can definitely change the game with just a few open looks. Xavier will have to keep him in check at all times, even while trying to offer help on Clarke.
Moderate Edge Xavier
It will be interesting to see how this plays out and see who guards who for Xavier, but I think we may see Philmore on Jones. Jones is a stout, widebody with good skills that does a little bit of everything for the Bulldogs. He can handle it, is an excellent passer, a strong defender and a great rebounder on both sides of the court. He's more skilled than Dwayne Evans from SLU, but he has the same type of power on the block, which is why I think Philmore may draw the match-up. over the last three games Philmore has played at least 31 minutes in each contest, including tying his career-high with 38 against SLU. Jones averages 10.6 points per game for the Bulldogs, but it's his passing and rebounding ability that truly make him a unique player. He dished out a career-high eight assists in Butler's win over UMass on Thursday. It was the 19th time this season that he's had at least a share of the team lead in assists.
Slight Edge Butler
Jeff Robinson Sr (6-10, 225) vs Khyle Marshall Jr (6-6, 216)
Robinson played well on senior night in the win over SLU. His length can make a big difference for Xavier when he is that active, as he got his hands on a ton of balls and kept plays alive for teammates, even when he wasn't able to come up with the board or loose ball himself. His line of nine points and six assists is a pretty solid effort, and one they could use again at Hinkle. Robinson gives the Musketeers a little bit of a size advantage in this one, as long as he uses it and is aggressive on the glass and engaged on defense. Marshall is an athletic, slashing forward that lacks skills, but makes plays with energy. He scores most of his points off of cuts to the rim, offensive putbacks or in transition. Marshall is inconsistent as a scorer, but not insignificant. When the Bulldogs get good production out of him, meaning he scores in double-figures, they are 15-1 on the season. Three of the last four games he's been in double-figures, including scoring 13 in the loss to VCU and 14 in the win over UMass.
Slight Edge Butler
Travis Taylor Sr (6-8, 216) vs Andrew Smith Sr (6-11, 243)
Travis Taylor left the fans at Cintas with one of the best farewells in Xavier history on senior night, scoring 19 points and hauling in a ridiculous 19 boards. He's been an absolute animal this season, and when you look at Xavier's big wins on the year (Butler, Memphis, SLU) he was dominant in the paint in all of them. They'll certainly need another effort like that against the Bulldogs. He'll be going against a very solid, but very different center in Smith. Smith isn't the rebounder Taylor is, but he does have more size and is your more typical back to the basket low-post player. He is coming off a big performance against UMass where he scored 13 points and grabbed 15 boards in 37 minutes of action. His lack of foot speed may be a little troublesome while guarding Taylor.
Slight Edge Xavier
Xavier Bench vs Butler Bench
One nice thing about Butler is their roster makeup allows Xavier to leave Redford out on the court for longer. Playing guys like Stigall and Barlow allow Redford to get more opportunities on offense, because he won't get burnt on the defensive end near as much. Xavier could obviously use some instant offense from their fifth-year senior off the bench in this one. Justin Martin is the same way. They need him to make a few shots when he's in there. We've also seen big man Erik Stenger get some more minutes of late inside and that will likely continue in this one, as they'll need his grit and toughness on the boards for stretches. Butler will counter with sophomore Kameron Woods, who is another athletic combo-forward type like Marshall. Woods came off the bench to score a career-high 17 points against UMass. Chase Stigall, who started last time these teams played, comes off the bench in a limited role now. He's the senior who can play two minutes or 20 minutes, and he'll understand his role either way, which is to not screw things up. Erik Fromm provides some depth inside at 6-8, 223, and sophomore Alex Barlow, a Cincinnati-native will provide double-digit minutes in the backcourt, and leads the team in steals.
Slight Edge Butler
Butler, at full strength, has only lost to two teams (SLU and VCU) since the Maui Invitational. They were missing Clarke and Smith for the LaSalle and Charlotte games respectively. They're definitely not the same team that Xavier faced at Cintas earlier this year when they weren't capable of reaching 50 points. Despite playing at nearly the same pace as Xavier, the Bulldogs are a pretty efficient team on the offensive end, similar to SLU. They're slightly better than Xavier when it comes to defensive efficiency too. Butler has two great shooters Clarke and Dunham, and a lot of the offense revolves around freeing those guys for shots, but they're willing to get into the lane and score in the mid-range too. Marshall, Jones and Smith are great at understanding and fulfilling their roles on the court. The way Xavier wins this game is simple, and it's the same way they've won big games already this year - they have to compete for all 40 minutes and play with incredible intensity on the defensive end and the glass. This game will be ugly, as it always is when these two teams meet up, and the tougher team on the defensive end and on the glass will come out with the win. Butler is ranked first in the Atlantic 10 in rebounding margin at +7.9. The Bulldogs have out-rebounded 13 of their last 14 opponents, so something is going to have to give on the glass. The Musketeers need some big shots. If Redford, Davis or Martin can give them some cheap threes, the Muskies will have a much better shot of pulling off the upset at Hinkle.
Score Prediction: Butler 64 Xavier 62