Remy Abell JR (6-4, 194) vs Alex Barlow Sr (5-11, 187)
Barlow is averaging 8.3 points and 2.1 assists while playing 32.3 minutes per game. His last three games against Big East opponents (Villanova, Saint John's and Providence) have been three of his best performances all season. He's averaging 13.3 points so far in conference play, and has made 7-of-16 3-point attempts in those three games, despite hitting at just a 32.8 percent clip from beyond the arc for the season. It would seem weird for Abell to be guarding Barlow, but it's a possibility if the staff decides Dee Davis should stay on Dunham. This approach would cut off the Bulldogs' only two perimeter threats, and Abell could probably provide plenty of help to both Davis and Bluiett. It will be interesting to see what the staff does with the starting matchups. Last year Butler had all types of trouble defending against Christon's athleticism, so Abell should look to exploit that with aggressive drives to the rim. Abell only had five points against Seton Hall, but he hit one of the most timely 3-pointers of the season in the second half of the game to give the Musketeers their final lead.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Dee Davis SR (6-0, 170) vs Kellen Dunham JR (6-6, 185)
Dunham leads the team at 17 points per game and he's shooting a blistering 47.1 percent from 3-point range. He's only shooting 43.3 percent on his 2-point attempts, though, so chasing him off the 3-point line will be a huge key for the Musketeers defensively. He's coming off a 28-point performance at St. John's followed by an 18-point performance at home in the loss to Providence. He took 16 shots in both of those games, which ties his season-high, so it's clear that he's been having to try and carry the Bulldogs' offense a little bit more in Big East play. Davis held Dunham to a combined 3-for-20 shooting effort in the two games the teams played last season, and that's the main reason I would expect the coaching staff to start with this match-up alignment. At this point, one would think Davis might be in Dunham's head, and at the very least he's already proven he can shut the Bulldogs' top scorer down. Davis played well offensively in both games last year too, finishing with 12 points in the first game and then nine points and nine assists in the second Musketeers' victory. He's coming off one of his best performances of the season against Seton Hall where he finished with 14 points (6-11 FG), six assists, three rebounds and two steals.
Slight Edge Butler
Trevon Bluiett FR (6-6, 215) vs Roosevelt Jones JR (6-4, 227)
Jones is a point guard type player stuck in a thick wing/forward''s body. Having him back has been a huge key to Butler's success so far this season as he's been able to not only score points himself but also create a lot of opportunities for his teammates. He handles and passes well, and also knows how to use his body when attacking the basket. As conference play has started, it seems like he and Dunham have had to take on more of the load offensively for the Bulldogs. Jones attempted a season-high 18 shots last game against Providence, hitting just five of them and finishing with 13 points. He's not an outside shooter at all, and has not attempted a 3-pointer this year. All his points come on drives to the basket, mid-range buckets and free throws. He is a very strong rebounder from the guard position. He's matched up in this preview on Bluiett, because from at least a defensive standpoint I think we can assume he will probably be guarding the Musketeers' leading scorer. As far as what X will do defensively, it's hard to tell. Snow brought up the possibility of Bluiett guarding Jones, but doing so in a disrespectful manner by playing in the paint all game and daring Jones to make a jumper. Though he's not their leading scorer, he is in many ways the Bulldogs' most important player on offense so he could also receive the Abell treatment. Bluiett appears to have broken out of his slump. He followed a big second half performance at DePaul with a strong 13-point effort against Seton Hall. He's also been a beast on the boards, hauling in 19 rebounds combined over the last two games. He's always had the reputation as a big game player, and with him heading back to Indianapolis for the first time of his college career it'd be a surprise if he didn't come out with a little extra fire.
Chrabascz is a little undersized as a post player, but he's a strong, physical player that also has some face-up skill. He's averaging 9.1 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. The sophomore forward had a real nice stretch of games against Indiana, Tennessee-Martin, Belmont and even Villanova where he showed some skill offensively, rebounded well and scored. However, his production has slowed down over the last two games. He had just eight points (3-8 FG) and three rebounds at Saint John's, and followed that up with an 0-for-6 performance from the field against Providence where he finished with two points and one rebound while fouling out in 25 minutes of action. Since the Tennessee-Martin game where he went 3-of-4 from beyond the arc, he's missed his last nine 3-point attempts. When the Musketeers are playing with two bigs such as with this this starting lineup, they have to make the Bulldogs pay for not being as big or as long at the four position. The Musketeers were able to impose their will in the paint last year, and they're more talented in the post this year. Farr gave them a boost early in the win over Seton Hall and finished with one of his weirder stat lines of the season, eight points (4-6 FG) and no rebounds. He only played 13 minutes against the Pirates after appearing for four minutes at DePaul due to sickness.
Slight Edge Xavier
Matt Stainbrook SR (6-10, 270) vs Kameron Woods SR (6-9, 200)
Woods is a long and athletic big man, averaging 7.3 points and nine rebounds per game. He had eight points and seven rebounds in the first match-up between the teams last year, but was a complete non-factor in the second game at Butler, finishing with one point and six rebounds. Woods is mobile, but ultimately he's not a guy that's going to hurt Xavier in pick-and-pop situations or really make Stainbrook chase him around the perimeter. He does all his work right around the basket, and that worked to Xavier's advantage last year. Stainbrook played a huge role in the Musketeers' first win over Butler last season, finishing with 17 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks. In the second game, he was more of a rebounder with nine boards and just six points on 3-of-5 shooting. Even though he still only got four shot attempts against Seton Hall, he was more physical on the offensive end and much more locked in on the defensive end than he was last Saturday at Depaul. He finished with eight points, nine boards and two assists in the win over the Pirates Wednesday night. When he's in the game against Butler, he should have the ability to punish the Bulldogs' smaller lineup. If he continues to play physical in the paint and the guards do a better job of looking for him, it could be a big day for Stainbrook underneath.
Slight Edge Xavier
Xavier Bench vs Butler Bench
Butler keeps to a pretty strict eight-man rotation. Freshman forward Kelan Martin, a 6-6, 215-pound face-up four, adds an offensive spark as the sixth man. He's averaging 8.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 15.3 minutes per game. He's in a major slump shooting from long distance, missing his last 17 shots from deep and hitting at just a 23.2 percent clip for the season. He's the type of skilled four that could give the Musketeers trouble though if he busts out of his slump. Senior Indiana-transfer Austin Etherington (6-6, 215) is a veteran player that understands his role off the bench, averaging 3.1 points and 2.0 rebounds in 13 minutes per game. He's not much of a threat on offense and he typically plays as an undersized four for the Bulldogs. Finally, freshman big man Tyler Wideman (6-8, 245) comes off the bench to bang in the paint and grab boards. He's averaging 3.3 points and 2.9 rebounds in 10.9 minutes per game. Myles Davis has basically become another starter for Xavier, even though he's technically the sixth man. He played the third most minutes (29) on the team against Seton Hall, despite it not being one of his best offensive performances. He was 1-of-6 from the field including 1-of-5 from 3-point range and finished with eight points, three assists, two steals and two rebounds. Expect him to play a lot in this one as well when Butler goes to its smaller lineups. Jalen Reynolds is another Musketeer that should see plenty of minutes off the bench. He only had six points against Seton Hall, but they all came in the second half and he also hauled in seven rebounds to help X control the paint down the stretch. He matches up really well with Butler center Kameron Woods. J.P. Macura has also provided the Musketeers with a spark off the bench recently. He had four points, both off of putbacks on his only two rebounds of the game, to go with an assist and a steal against Seton Hall.
Slight Edge Xavier
Games between these two teams have typically been scrappy and high-energy in the past. The fan bases seem to really get up for this game due to the recent history between these teams, so the atmosphere should be pretty strong inside Hinkle. The Bulldogs have overachieved this season because of the way they defend. That combined with the fact that this is a road game for the Musketeers means that they can’t rely on their offense to win the game. They’re going to have to lock in on the defensive end for two halves and play solid. Neither team matches up well with the other defensively in their usual starting lineups, so it will be interesting to see which team imposes its will initially and forces the other coach to make the first chess move personnel-wise. When Chrabascz comes out of the game, Butler usually goes to Etherington or Martin at the four, who are both smaller face-up guys. That’ll be something to keep an eye on during the game to see if Xavier is forced to slide Bluiett to the four, or if they instead try to dominate the paint by playing two bigs against Butler’s smaller lineup. The Musketeers match-up well with the Bulldogs, but until they prove they can get the job done away from the Cintas Center it’s tough to pick them.