10 games Butler basketball fans must watch this year

Kamar Baldwin dribbles down the floor during the Butler men’s basketball team’s first exhibition game against Tiffin. Baldwin scored 17 points in the 100-63 win. Jimmy Lafakis/Collegian file photo.

DREW SANDIFER | STAFF REPORTER | dsandife@butler.edu

So here you are, calendar in hand, not sure which of the 31 Butler men’s basketball games you should watch or attend. Fear not. We have you covered with the 10 must-watch games of the season, featuring the biggest matchups, storylines and NCAA Tournament implications.

  1. Butler vs St. John’s, Jan. 19 at 4:30 p.m. on Fox

St. John’s was just starting to find its groove last year after losing its first 11 Big East games with wins over Duke, Villanova and Butler. Shamorie Ponds is a contender for Big East Player of the Year, and Auburn transfer Mustapha Heron will be able to play immediately for the Red Storm. This is the first home game after students return to school, so the crowd will surely be buzzing. Lastly, the game is set to air on Fox, which is a huge recruiting opportunity for a Butler team who only has one commit from the 2019 class.

  1. Butler at Providence, March 9 at noon on TBD

In the case that the Bulldogs or the Friars end up on the bubble come March, this game could become monumental for the two squads. This is the last game for both teams and Butler has not won in the Dunkin’ Donuts Center since March 2015. Alpha Diallo is the man in Providence with top 60 recruits with David Duke and A.J. Reeves joining him. Whether for an NCAA Tournament berth, seeding in said tournament or positioning in the Big East Tournament, this one is sure to be a difference maker.

  1. Butler vs Marquette, Jan. 30 at 6:30 p.m. on FS1

Marquette is the preseason favorite to break out in the Big East, and their offense is high-octane enough this year that they could give Villanova a scare for the conference crown. Andrew Rowsey is the only key departure, and Sam Hauser and Markus Howard return to lead one of the nation’s most lethal offenses. Joining Sam Hauser is his four-star brother, Joey, and fellow four-star Brendan Bailey. This is most likely Coach Steve Wojciechowski’s best team yet and will certainly be hovering around the Bulldogs’ spot in the conference rankings.

  1. Butler at Villanova, March 2 at 2 p.m. on Fox

While this Wildcats squad looks much different than the team that won the Big Dance last season, this is still the team to beat in the Big East. Seniors Phil Booth and Eric Paschall are back and are joined by top 35 commits Jahvon Quinerly and Cole Swider, along with University of Albany transfer Joe Cremo. A win on the road against Villanova could be a resumé headliner, and a quality upset win on Fox could be a huge recruiting tool for coach LaVall Jordan.

  1. Butler at Xavier, Jan. 13 at noon on CBSSN

While Xavier is expected to have a down year after the departure of Trevon Bluiett, J.P. Macura, Kaiser Gates, Kerem Kanter and Chris Mack, the storyline for this game lies with the Musketeers’ new head coach. Travis Steele, the Danville, Indiana, native, graduated from Butler in 2004, during which he coached a local AAU program and was an assistant at Indy area Ben Davis High School. A few stops later, he ended up as an assistant under Chris Mack. To add on top of the rivalry that comes when the Bulldogs and Musketeers meet, this is the first time Steele will face his alma mater as a head coach.

  1. Battle 4 Atlantis, Nov. 21-23 on ESPN Networks

While there is only one game confirmed for the Bulldogs, the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving could provide Butler with a trio of quality opponents. The Bulldogs will start off the tourney with a game against Dayton, who has had recent success in the NCAA Tournament but has struggled since coach Archie Miller left for Indiana. Should they win that game, Butler would likely go on to face Virginia, who only lost three games last year and is led by Indianapolis native Kyle Guy. In the third game, Power Five conference teams like Oklahoma, Stanford and Wisconsin could stand in Butler’s way.

  1. Butler at Florida, Dec. 29 at TBD on ESPNU

In the first season of a home-and-home with Florida, Butler will get to experience a true road test in December. The Rowdy Reptiles will be in full force in the Swamp as the Gators could possibly have the best home court advantage of any team the Bulldogs have faced in some time. While none of the current players were on the roster, old fans of both programs will remember when these two met in the NCAA Tournament in 2011, as Butler won 74-71 to advance to their second straight Final Four. Seniors Jalen Hudson and KeVaughn Allen are no strangers to tournament success, either, advancing to the Elite Eight just two years ago.

  1. Butler vs Indiana, Dec. 15 at 3:45 p.m. on CBS

As part of the Crossroads Classic, Butler will face the Indiana Hoosiers as they do every even-numbered year. In each of their previous three meetings in this series, at least one of the teams was ranked, and the lesser-ranked team has won each game. The Bulldogs’ most memorable was in 2012 when they defeated top-ranked Indiana in overtime 88-86. However, Butler has not faced the Hoosiers since they hired Archie Miller away from Dayton. Many fans will be in town to watch future NBA Lottery pick in Indiana’s Romeo Langford, while the storyline on the other side will be the debut of Duke transfer Jordan Tucker for the Dawgs.

  1. Butler vs Xavier, March 5 at 6 p.m. on FS1

As if the Butler-Xavier rivalry needed any more fuel added to the fire, this year’s matchup at Hinkle is senior night for the Bulldogs as they celebrate the careers of seniors Paul Jorgensen and Cincinnati native Nate Fowler. It will also be Xavier coach and Butler alum Travis Steele’s first trip to Hinkle since being named the head man at his alma mater’s rival. Butler will look to avenge last year’s home matchup with the Musketeers as Indianapolis native Trevon Bluiett drilled a dagger three with 25 seconds left. Emotions will be high for both the players and fans for the schools that are only separated by some 120 miles, and you will not want to miss it.

  1. Butler vs Villanova, Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. on FS1

Villanova has their finger on the pulse of the college basketball world with titles in two out of the past three years. Before last season, they had won every regular season conference championship in the new-look Big East. The one chink in their armor has been playing in Hinkle Fieldhouse. In the past two years, they have come rolling into town as the undefeated and top-ranked team in the land, but both times left with a loss. Despite their rivalry with Xavier, the Bulldogs have been best known around the nation as Villanova’s nagging little brother and will look to play that role again in front of a soldout Hinkle crowd with you in it.

Follow Drew on Twitter: @drew_sandifer

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