Barlow went from walk-on to starting point guard at Butler, and while he's certainly not the most talented guard in the Big East, the GCL product gets the most out of his ability. He typically chooses his spots wisely on the offensive end, looking mostly for open 3-pointers where he shoots 41.9 percent. He knows his role on the team. He does a pretty good job of handling the ball for the Bulldogs, getting them into their offense, and then getting out of the way as he has a pretty low usage rate for a point guard. Barlow will also scrap; he was only 2-of-10 from the field against Villanova but he grabbed nine rebounds and got four steals on the defensive end. Davis, like Barlow, has done an excellent job of accepting his role since returning from the Bahamas. He's played well since the Musketeers returned, sometimes adding scoring, but always running the offense well and defending at a high level. St. John's was one of the games where he struggled a bit offensively, going 0-for-3 from beyond the arc, but he made 5-of-6 free-throws to finish with nine points, and he dished out four assists while doing a good job on the defensive end against D'Angelo Harrison. One of Davis' most important tasks in this game will be to push the ball at any chance to try and catch the Butler defense before it's able to set up in the halfcourt. The Muskies might not be able to score on the break all the time, but pushing the pace can often lead to good early looks on the secondary break with the defense out of position. These two guys are similar in a lot of ways. They've each only scored in double-figures three time this year, but they play key roles in their team's offensive success. Expect Davis to play with a lot of confidence in this match-up.
Slight Edge Xavier
Semaj Christon So (6-3, 190) vs Kellen Dunham So (6-6, 185)
Dunham came off the bench, and played his role as a sharp-shooter with limited opportunities most of his freshman year. This season he's made a seamless transition into the role of leading-scorer for the Bulldogs. Against Villanova he finished with 22 points, but the Wildcats did a pretty good job of making him work hard for his shots. He will hit some tough ones and Butler will work hard to free him by running him off screens and running stuff for him, but as long as Xavier doesn't give him any easy looks they should be alright. Christon is likely to get the match-up as the Bulldogs go big with their lineup, and Christon has the most size in Xavier's backcourt. The Musketeers' standout has been fantastic defensively as some of the offensive burden has been lifted off of his shoulders. His all-around game was on full display against St. John's. Christon only scored 10 points, but was extremely efficient and also added eight assists, five boards, two steals and two blocks, while having just the eighth highest usage rate on the team in that game. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out for the Muskies' superstar. This might be the perfect game for others to carry the load offensively, while he focuses on trying to shut Dunham down, but at the same time, Christon presents some serious match-up issues for the Bulldogs. It could be a big game all-around for zero as long as he stays aggressive.
Slight Edge Xavier
Justin Martin Jr (6-6, 205) vs Kameron Woods Jr (6-9, 200)
Woods is a long and athletic forward that brings energy on the defensive end, and creates his own scoring opportunities with his effort. He scores off of putbacks, tip-ins, and transition opportunities, but he can also face up and get to the rim or knock down the open mid-range jumper. He's comfortable with the ball in his hands and is a decent passer. He really makes his biggest impact on the defensive end, though, where he's seemingly everywhere with blocked shots, deflections and steals. Woods is a versatile offensive player, and although he's not a big-time scorer, he's very important to their offense with the extra opportunities he creates for himself and his teammates. Martin's play is going to be so important in this game. He's had some brilliant moments lately including the UC game and the New Year's Eve win over St. John's when he posted the second highest efficiency total on the team behind Semaj Christon with a +16. Martin's length and rebounding ability will be key, because X needs him to help combat and Woods' and Marshall's rebounding skills. If he's able to provide any offensive spark like he did in those previously mentioned games, with 17 against UC and 15 against St. John's, it's a huge bonus.
Slight Edge Butler
Isaiah Philmore Sr (6-8, 237) vs Khyle Marshall Sr (6-6, 216)
Marshall is a name that Xavier fans are already familiar with after seeing him multiple times over the last three seasons. This year his minutes are up to 28 per game from right around 21 the last two years, and his production is way up as he's been forced to help shoulder the scoring load. He's the second-leading scorer on the team at 16 points per game, and he's got a surprisingly high usage rate. He's a great athlete with long arms and tremendous leaping ability that is at his best when he's crashing the boards, especially when it comes to offensive putbacks. He's shown off a more well-developed skill-set this year, though, and has shown flashes being able to take over a game. He's a better scorer from the mid-range and off the dribble this season. He scored a career-high 30 points against Washington State on a 12-of-18 shooting performance, and had 21 on 8-of-10 shooting two games ago against New Jersey Tech. Against Villanova on New Year's Eve, the Wildcats were able to keep him off of the glass and got him in a little bit of foul trouble. He never found his rhythm offensively and finished just 2-of-7 from the field with four points and three boards. Philmore has played well over the last three games, averaging a double-double over that stretch in wins over Alabama, Wake Forest and St. John's. He struggled to finish shots against Wake, but his effort was so good and he grabbed nine rebounds to make up for it. Against Alabama he had 17 and 12, and against St. John's he put up 11 and 9. These two guys different in terms of their body and their physical attributes, but Philmore has done a good job against the athleticism of Wake Forest and St. John's in back-to-back games to help Xavier control the paint. He'll have to bring the physicality and high motor again in this one.
Moderate Edge Butler
Matt Stainbrook Jr (6-10, 263) vs Erik Fromm Sr (6-8, 223)
After playing just 11 minutes as a sophomore and junior, Fromm is seeing nearly 25 minutes per contest this year as the biggest player in Butler's rotation. While he may be the Bulldog's resident big man, he plays a face-up style and spends a lot of his time on the perimeter on offense. Over half of his shot attempts have come from beyond the arc this year, despite the fact that he's only shooting 27.3 percent from long range. He's done a pretty good job of competing inside on the defensive end and providing Butler with a somewhat capable post defender. Much like we've seen Xavier teams do in the past though, especially last year when Travis Taylor was the team's big man, they won't stop a standout big like Stainbrook one-on-one. The Bulldogs will have to use a team effort to slow him down. Stainbrook has been on top of his game over the last five contests for Xavier. He's had double-digit boards in four of the five games, and he's averaging 12.8 points during that stretch. If he continues that trend on Saturday afternoon, he should provide Xavier with the edge they need to win the game.
Significant Edge Xavier
Xavier Bench vs Butler Bench
One of Butler's weaknesses is a lack of depth. The two main contributors off the bench are freshmen Elijah Brown and Andrew Chrabascz. Brown, the son of Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown, is a 6-4 shooting guard that plays with a lot of confidence. With the Bulldogs lacking some offensive firepower in their starting rotation, Brown can play a key role when he comes into the game, as he showed in the last game against Villanova where he scored 19 points on New Year's Eve (4-of-7 from 3-pt). Chrabascz is a 6-7 forward with a big strong frame and a knack for offensive rebounding. He will remind you of every Butler forward ever with his effort and bruising style of play. Other than that, 6-foot guard Jackson Aldrige is the only other player that gets regular minutes, and he just comes in for 5-10 minutes to give someone a breather and look for an open three. Xavier has been getting good contributions from its bench all season, and the win against St. John's was no exception. Myles Davis played the most minutes (18) out of the bench players, but he was the only one who didn't play too well, as he finished 0-for-4 from the field. James Farr came in to score five points and grab four rebounds in 14 minutes, Brandon Randolph scored seven points on 3-for-3 shooting with two rebounds, and Jalen Reynolds scored four points and grabbed two rebounds in five minutes. Reynolds has steadily been improving over the course of the season, and has played pretty well lately. He could be a good match-up to work against Kameron Woods if the Bulldogs' starting forward gives X any trouble with his athleticism and style of play.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Expect this to be your typical Xavier vs Butler scrappy slugfest. These two teams both defend very well and play a physical style of basketball. Xavier is tied for 31st in the nation allowing .92 points per possession on the defensive end, while Butler is tied for 46 at .94. Butler relies on its 3-point shooting more and has more shooters than the Musketeers, while Xavier has a post presence with Matt Stainbrook for which the Bulldogs have no answer. Both teams will have long possessions, at least early on, which will make the game lower scoring and make every possession more important. Xavier should have a big advantage in the post, and if they control the boards against Butler's athletic forwards then they should be in position to win. Anything like turnovers, mental errors on the defensive end or foul trouble could definitely turn the tide in Butler's favor, though. X would be well served by trying to get out in transition and get some points on the break or the secondary, because Butler plays a lot like Xavier on the defensive end and keeps it tight in the halfcourt. If nothing funny happens and these two teams come out and play their game, look for Xavier to have a one to two possession lead throughout the game, but Butler keeps them from pulling away, which makes for an at least somewhat exciting finish.
Score Prediction: Xavier 65 Butler 61