Sean McDermott drives to the basket. McDermott and the Bulldogs host Georgetown in their Big East opener. Jimmy Lafakis/Collegian file photo.
JOSH MULLENIX | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
After 13 nonconference contests, the Butler men’s basketball team sits at 9-4. To start Big East play, the Bulldogs welcome head coach Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas to Hinkle Fieldhouse to begin their conference schedule. Here’s what you need to know.
Who: Butler vs. Georgetown
When: Jan. 2, 7 pm EST
Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
How to Watch/Listen: FSN/107.5 FM, 1070 AM
A short memory is crucial
It’s a new year, so let’s take that chance to reset and forget about 2018 and more importantly Butler’s loss to Florida. The last time the Bulldogs took the floor it was not pretty as the Gators jumped out to a 21-0 lead and won by 34. Ultimately, that’s a road loss to a quadrant one team. Nothing to be ashamed of on its own. But what is more important is that Butler not let the poor performance leak into its head as conference play begins. Butler’s performance in November and December didn’t do them many favors in a year where the Big East does not carry the weight it has in the past. The last two seasons Butler has suffered conference home losses to teams they had no business losing to and a home loss to Georgetown to start the conference schedule would probably fall in that same category. In short, forget about the Florida game and get off to a good start at home against a Hoyas team Butler should beat.
Interior defense will win Butler this game
In two of Butler’s four losses, offensive big men have been detrimental for the Bulldog defense. Butler couldn’t contain Dayton’s Josh Cunningham at the Battle 4 Atlantis and Indiana’s Juwan Morgan set a Crossroads Classic points record against Butler earlier this season. However, Georgetown’s Jessie Govan will more than likely be the most dominant big man the Bulldogs see all season. The 6-foot-10 senior is averaging 18.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game entering conference play. He shooting 56 percent from the field, 45 percent from deep and 80 percent from the charity stripe. To be clear, the expectation shouldn’t be to completely stop Govan, he has six 20-point games this season and completely shutting him down is unreasonable, but slowing him down is paramount. Georgetown is 123rd in the country in 3-point shooting percentage and 173rd in the country in 3-point field goals made. In other words, they don’t make very many threes. Playing good interior defense on Govan forces Georgetown to look outside and that’s where they are vulnerable.
Things to fix (or maintain) heading into conference play
Butler has, arguably, looked really bad twice this year: once against Florida and once against Saint Louis. In those two games, Butler had a combined 11 assists. That just isn’t going to cut it. While Butler has talented players, there are several players that are at their best when the ball is moving quickly, most importantly Sean McDermott. McDermott does not create his own shot but is a huge 3-point threat when the ball is moving on the offensive end. Joey Brunk gets a lot of his opportunities from quick passes and pick-and-rolls as well. Butler’s offense is much more dangerous and diverse when the ball is moving quickly.
In Kamar Baldwin’s first three games he shot 24 free throws and made 21 of them. Since the win against Ole Miss, Baldwin has taken 20 free throws in 10 games. In a related issue, Baldwin does not have a 20-point performance since he scored 23 against the Rebels. In a year where he is struggling from beyond the arc, only two free throws per game is not good enough and he needs to be aggressive in getting to the basket. Penetration requires help defense, help defense means someone is open on the perimeter and often times that player is McDermott or Paul Jorgensen. You see where I’m going with this? And uncontested 15-foot shots, a.k.a. free throws, are always nice.
Finally, Butler’s done a really nice job taking care of the basketball this season. The Bulldogs are tied for 12th in the country in turnovers per game, committing only 10.5 per contest. Nothing else really matters if the Bulldogs don’t take care of the basketball and Butler did a nice job with that in the nonconference part of its schedule.