Men’s Basketball Preview: Butler Bulldogs at Cincinnati Bearcats


Photo by Nora Navin

Game Preview: #rv/25 Butler Bulldogs (4-1) vs. #17/17 Cincinnati Bearcats (7-0)

When and Where: Wednesday (Dec. 2), 7 p.m. ET at Fifth Third Arena (Cincinnati)

TV: CBS Sports Network, Radio: (in Indianapolis): 1070 AM and 93.5 FM

Series History: Cincinnati leads the all-time series 10-6 and won the first meeting in 1911. The Bearcats have won the last three meetings, but the most recent matchup came all the way back in 1997 when they beat Butler 86-69 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Butler Bulldogs: Butler goes to Cincinnati on Wednesday, playing their only true road game of the non-conference season. It also will serve as one of the toughest early tests for the team this season.

“We love games like this,” Butler Head Coach Chris Holtmann said. “We scheduled this game knowing they were going to be really tough, probably a top 25 team. It’s going to be a home-and-home against an outstanding opponent. We wanted this. We asked for it.”

The Bulldogs have been strong offensively this season, with their average of 95 points per game ranking fourth nationally. Senior shooting guard Kellen Dunham leads the team in scoring, averaging 21.2 points per game. He enters Wednesday’s matchup following a career high-tying 32-point performance on Saturday in the team’s 89-73 win against SIUE.

However, Butler’s defense has struggled at times and it will need to be better than it has been to get a win on Wednesday. Holtmann wouldn’t put a number on how many points they need to score against Cincinnati, but said that the coaching staff is stressing efficiency on both ends of the floor.

“We want to be able to win games in the 50s and we want to be able to win games in the 80s, but in order to do that we’ve got to improve, certainly defensively,” he said.

Cincinnati Bearcats: Cincinnati plays host to the Bulldogs on Wednesday fresh off of earning the Barclays Center Classic title in Brooklyn. They defeated George Washington 61-56 on Saturday in the tournament championship. The win made them the first team in the country to reach the 7-0 mark this season.

The Bearcats are a member of the American Athletic Conference and brought back all five starters from last season’s team that went 23-11 and reached the third round of the NCAA Tournament.

Head Coach Mick Cronin is in his tenth season leading his alma mater. He was away from the team for most of last season however, after being diagnosed with a vascular condition that required medication and rest. He is now healthy and back on the sideline, leading his team to an undefeated start to the season.

Cronin’s teams are known for their defense, and this year’s squad is no different. They have allowed just 54.6 points per game, ranking them second in the country. They are ninth nationally in field goal percentage defense, with opponents shooting just 34.7 percent from the floor.

Senior guard Farad Cobb leads the Bearcats in scoring so far this season, averaging 11.6 points per game. He is also the teams top three-point shooter at 52.8 percent from behind the arc.