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The Matchups: Xavier vs Butler

Before every game, Rick gives a position-by-position preview of what to expect. This edition focuses on Saturday afternoon's home game against Butler.

Myles Davis JR (6-2, 188) vs Roosevelt Jones SR (6-4, 225)

Davis is coming off a very forgettable performance at Villanova. He finished with three points on 1-for-8 shooting, with five assists, three rebounds and five turnovers. He hasn't scored in double figures since the Crosstown Shootout. He's done a great job of setting up his teammates and making sound decisions all year - racking up 41 assists compared to only 16 turnovers - but, assuming Edmond Sumner is out, he's also going to take over primary ballhandling duties in this game. Butler won't put much defensive pressure on him, so that shouldn't be an issue. However, it will be interesting to see what it does to his aggressiveness on the offensive end. He's averaging 10.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 27.8 minutes per game. Jones is one of the most unique players in the country. He can't shoot at all from the outside, but he has nearly every other offensive skill-set packaged into a linebacker's body. He's at his best when he's power driving to the basket, using his handle and strength to overpower smaller defenders in the lane. He's also a good perimeter rebounder, great passer and a versatile defender. He had 19 points, six rebounds and four assists in Thursday's loss to Providence, and is averaging 14.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Davis has guarded him some in the past, and in particular did a good job against him in the Big East Tournament game at Madison Square Garden last year when Jones finished with four points on 2-of-9 shooting with four assists and four turnovers. He's strong and tough enough to not get bullied by Jones on defense or the glass, and the staff will have him sag off on the perimeter to help clog the lane. 

Slight Edge Butler

JP Macura SO (6-5, 203) vs Tyler Lewis JR (5-11, 169)

Macura received a little more playing time when Sumner went down against Villanova and he responded with his first double-figure scoring effort since the Wright State game. He finished with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting (2-4 3PT), five rebounds and two assists. If they're going to be missing Sumner's offensive spark, Macura is one guy who can step up and replace some of that. He's averaging 9.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 20.2 minutes per game. Lewis is a creative and flashy ballhandler and passer. He's only shooting 32.4 percent from beyond the arc, but he plays with a lot of confidence and is more than willing to let it fly from deep. He's averaging 8.3 points, 4.1 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game. He was in foul trouble and finished with just one point and one assist in 18 minutes on Thursday against Providence. His best game came a few weeks ago against Purdue when he poured in 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting (2-3 3PT) to go with six boards, four assists, and four steals. This is a tough match-up to analyze, and these two players may not even be guarding one another. Macura is more talented, but him having to start is the result of Xavier missing it's starting point guard (Sumner), potentially making Lewis more effective. If he gets this assignment, Macura will have to do his best to keep Lewis in front of him, preventing the smaller guard from getting into the lane and making plays for everybody.

Even

Remy Abell SR (6-4, 197) vs Kellen Dunham SR (6-6, 200)

Abell has hit 5-of-9 attempts from three over the last four games, but he hasn't scored in double figures since the Dayton game. His athleticism is already going to be crucial on the defensive end in this matchup with Sumner out, but the Musketeers could also stand to see him be a little more aggressive on offense. He had six points (2-4 FG, 1-2 3PT) and two assists in the loss to Villanova, and is averaging 6.9 points and 2.2 assists in 26.5 minutes per game for the year. Dunham is one of the country's best shooters. He's averaging a team-high 15.0 points per game to go with 2.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists. He's in a huge shooting slump, having missed all 21 of his 3-point attempts over the last four games. For the season, he's shooting 29.9 percent from deep and 38.4 percent from the field. The last thing Xavier wants to do is let him find some confidence and end his cold spell, so look for Abell to spend a lot of his afternoon chasing Dunham around screens. If/When the Musketeers go to the 1-3-1 zone, they must make it a priority to find Dunham and keep him uncomfortable. 

Slight Edge Butler 

Trevon Bluiett SO (6-6, 208) vs Andrew Chrabascz JR (6-7, 236)

Bluiett was never able to get in the flow at Villanova. He finished with 11 points (2-9 FG, 0-4 3PT), two rebounds, two assists and four turnovers. Last year, Butler was able to slow the Indianapolis native down by putting Kam Woods on him. This year, that's not an option. Their best bet may be putting Roosevelt Jones on him, which they also did some last year, but that would then require some shifting elsewhere. Bluiett comes into the game averaging 14.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 30.5 minutes per game. Chrabascz is a unique forward. He'll make the occasional three or long jumper (7-for-27, 25.9% 3PT), but it's tough to classify him as a face-up forward because he scores a lot of his points with his back to the basket. He doesn't use his strength to jackhammer defenders in the post, though. Instead, he often posts up six to 10 feet from the basket and uses good footwork to get past his defender, or he hits a mid-range hook/turnaround jumper. He's not a great athlete in terms of leaping or speed, but he thrives on his fluidity and coordination on offense. He's averaging 12.1 points, 4.8 boards and 2.3 assists in 28.5 minutes per game, but is coming off a 2-for-11 performance from the field against Providence with four points and five rebounds on Thursday. He's a poor defender and a poor rebounder at both ends, so look for Xavier to take advantage of that.

Moderate Edge Xavier

Jalen Reynolds JR (6-10, 238) vs Tyler Wideman SO (6-8, 246)

Reynolds had six points on just two field goal attempts, and added five rebounds and two blocks in 20 minutes at Villanova on Thursday. The Wildcats' pressure took the Musketeers out of their offense, and kept their guards from getting the ball inside consistently to be able to utilize their advantage on the block with Reynolds and Farr. Xavier will have to do a better job of that against Butler, another team that should struggle with XU's size and rebounding. Wideman provides toughness and athleticism on the block for the Bulldogs. He's mostly a finisher on offense, waiting on his teammates to dump it off to him for high-percentage looks, but he also finds some garbage points by running the floor in transition and grabbing offensive boards. His teammates look to throw him a lot of lobs. He's averaging 9.8 points (66.7% FG), 6.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 24.2 minutes per game. 

Slight Edge Xavier

Xavier Bench vs Butler Bench

James Farr (6-10, 244) was the one Musketeer that seemed to keep it together and really played well against Villanova. He finished with 15 points (6-11 FG) and seven rebounds in 24 minutes, and is averaging 10.7 points and 8.5 boards in 20.3 minutes per game on the season. Look for him to have another big day against Butler. Sophomore point guard Larry Austin (6-2, 179) is going to have a much bigger role in this game if Sumner is indeed out. He comes in averaging 1.6 points and 1.1 assists in 12.5 minutes per game, and finished 0-for-3 from the field with one rebound and one assist in 19 minutes after Sumner went out on Thursday. His physicality and defense could end up playing a role if X struggles to guard Lewis early. Freshman forward Kaiser Gates (6-8, 217) is the other player most likely to see his minutes increase if Sumner is out. He saw 12 minutes and went 1-for-3 from 3-point range with a steal against Villanova. For Butler, sophomore forward Kelan Martin (6-6. 235) is a bucket-getting forward. He's great in isolation and he's shooting 44.7 percent from deep. He's coming off a 20-point, nine-rebound performance in the loss to Providence; and is the Bulldogs' second-leading scorer at 14.7 points per game to go with 5.7 rebounds in 22.5 minutes of action. Grad transfer Jordan Gathers (6-3, 195) is a spot-up shooter off the bench. He's averaging 5.9 points while shooting 51.6 percent from 3-point range on 31 attempts in 15.7 minutes per game. In 2013-14, he averaged 8.2 points and 2.1 assists while shooting 36 percent from three as a junior at St. Bonaventure. He sat out all of last season after undergoing hip surgery. 

Even

Overall

The Bulldogs are shooting 35.6 percent from 3-point range as a team, but only 22.9 percent of their points come from beyond the arc (303rd in the country). Their eclectic mix on offense does a great job of finding high-percentage two-point looks, and they run a lot of great actions/sets in the halfcourt. If Sumner doesn't play, Xavier will be weaker defensively and match-ups will be a little bit tougher to figure out, which may force the Musketeers to rely more on their 1-3-1 zone. Butler is averaging 1.025 points per possession against man-to-man defense (49.5% FG) and 1.028 ppp against zone defense (48% FG) this year. On the defensive end, they never press and almost never play zone, preferring to stick to their tight halfcourt man-to-man. They struggle most to defend the post and keep bigger opponents off of the offensive glass. Meanwhile, two of Xavier's most successful sources of offense are put backs (8.8 ppg) and post-ups (55.7% FG). The Bulldogs rank 92nd in the country in defensive rebounding rate. They have a few guys that are good out of area rebounders, but they don't box out which leads to second-chance points for the other team. Butler ranks ninth in the country in offensive efficiency and 138th in the country in defensive efficiency. The bottom line is it should be difficult for the Bulldogs to stop the Musketeers inside the Cintas Center, especially if X feeds the post and crashes the glass. 

Score prediction: Xavier 79 Butler 75


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