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Who: Butler vs. Xavier
When: Feb. 6, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
How to Watch: FS1
The Butler men’s basketball team sits tied for third in the Big East Conference. The Bulldogs are playing their best basketball of the season as they are winners of four straight with an average margin of victory of 20. Butler took care of business against the teams in the bottom half of the Big East, but now the competition stiffens. The No. 5 ranked Xavier Musketeers visit Hinkle Fieldhouse on Feb. 6. In the first meeting, Butler gave Xavier all they could handle but could not find a way to win as they lost 86-79 at the Cintas Center. The Musketeers have not lost since Jan. 10 and sit half a game back from the Villanova Wildcats in conference play.
Kelan Martin vs. Trevon Bluiett
There are not very many players in the Big East who have the ability to score like Kelan Martin, but Trevon Bluiett is one of them. The senior from Indianapolis is averaging 19.2 points and six rebounds per game and has scored 20 points or more 13 times this season. The battle between these two scorers will have a big impact on the outcome. Both play a similar style of basketball and are likely to be matched up come game time. While Martin put more points on the board in the first meeting, it took him 26 shots to do so. Martin’s impact and efficiency on the offensive end and solid defense on Bluiett will be crucial if the Bulldogs look to upset another top-5 team.
Aaron Thompson and Kamar Baldwin: Xavier’s defensive nightmare
Butler has been a brick wall on defense recently and it’s due in large part to the suffocating defense of Thompson and Baldwin. The backcourt tandem held Shamorie Ponds of St. John’s to two points and Marquette’s Andrew Rowsey to zero points in their most recent matchups. While Martin has his hands full with Bluiett, the Musketeers have two more talented guards in JP Macura and Quentin Goodin. Goodin is second in the Big East averaging over five assists per game and Macura is the emotional leader of this Xavier team. The Big East is full of high level guards and the Xavier backcourt is no exception.
The pressure is off, now it’s time to go after the best seed possible
Unless disaster strikes, the Bulldogs secured a NCAA tournament spot with their road win at Marquette. A Big East road win against a formidable opponent was the only thing missing from the Butler resume. From here on out, it’s all about chasing the best seed possible for March. Winning this type of game against Xavier can have an impact on the seed that the Bulldogs receive in March. Winning tonight would give Butler two wins over top-5 opponents, a mark not very many teams in the country can boast.