Junior guard Chuck Harris scored 17 points in the loss at St. John’s on Jan. 10. Photo by Grace Hensley.
KOBE MOSLEY | MANAGING EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
After beginning conference play with a disappointing 2-5 record, the Butler men’s basketball team will return home to face the Villanova Wildcats in what feels like a must-win game for the Dawgs. Going into the matchup, Butler is currently tied with St. John’s for the second-worst record in-conference at 2-5 — St. John’s holds the tiebreaker after their 77-61 win over the Bulldogs on Jan. 10. Losing this game wouldn’t necessarily put them out of contention for a favorable seed in the Big East, but it would certainly hurt the chances of that happening. Of the 13 games left, Butler will have to play six on the road. Of those six, four of them will be against ranked teams in the conference — No. 6 UConn, No. 12 Xavier, No. 19 Providence and No. 24 Marquette. Only a game and a half separates the top 5-10 teams in the Big East standings right now, so every game from here on out counts.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of tip-off between the Bulldogs and Wildcats.
Who: Butler vs. Villanova
When: Jan. 13, 7:00 p.m.
Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse
How to watch/listen: FS1/WXNT 1430AM
Turnovers cannot become a trend
The St. John’s game was the first time since November that turnovers had become a collective problem for the Bulldogs. There have been some games where individuals had bad games turning the ball over, but it had never really infected the whole team. Head coach Thad Matta surely will not want to see this happen again versus Villanova or his team could be in trouble once again. To be fair, the two games where Butler had their highest turnover totals came against two stingy defenses in the Red Storm and the fifth-ranked Tennessee Volunteers.
Thankfully for Butler, the Wildcats rank dead last in the Big East in steals, averaging just 5.2 per game. The Bulldogs have to look at this game as an opportunity to limit the number of turnovers they have. Four Butler players had three or more turnovers in their last outing, something that cannot happen, especially when they are a team who periodically suffers from scoring droughts.
Villanova scouting report
Under new head coach Kyle Neptune, Villanova has undergone a larger regression than many assumed would happen following the exit of Hall-of-Fame coach Jay Wright. Like any team in the Big East, however — besides maybe Georgetown —, the Wildcats cannot be overlooked. This year’s roster is still talented, even with Justin Moore yet to make his return from last season’s injury. Unlike Butler, Villanova’s four losses in conference play have been close, losing those games by an average of 7 points a game.
Four players average double figures in points, with graduate Caleb Daniels and redshirt junior Eric Dixon leading the way. Daniels averages 16.4 points per game while Dixon is close behind at 16.2. Another name to look out for is first-year Cam Whitmore. The 6-7 forward was named the preseason Big East Freshman of the Year and is averaging 13.2 points and 5.2 rebounds a game. Villanova continues to lead the conference in free throw percentage and is tied for second in three-pointers made. Butler will need to keep the Wildcats from getting to the line often and limit open shots on the perimeter in order to earn a victory in Hinkle.