By Andy Mac Williams, 1/12/2019

Xavier and Butler play their first of two BIG EAST regular season games Sunday at Cintas(12 noon Tip-FS1). Both teams have gone through some non-conference and early BE adversity. We all know the Muskie story. Things are trending up after Wednesday's stirring 81-75 come-from-behind 81-75 win over Georgetown. X debuted the Twin Tower Look with Tyrique Jones and Zach Hankins playing almost half the game together combining for 42 points and 20 rebounds. The Muskies won without anchor PG Quentin Gooden(sore knee), He might play against Butler?? Paul Scruggs did strong heavy lifting at PG and Sophomore Elias Harden soaked up 24 important minutes off the bench scoring 7 points with strong "d" and no turnovers. Xavier had just 4 turnovers total against the Hoyas-won the rebound battle against the BIG EAST's best team on the glass and beat GU at the foul line where they're 6th most efficient inn the NCAA. It was a good night and template XU must duplicate against Butler.

Xavier is 10-7 overall now-2-2 in the BIG EAST(Tie for 4th with St Johns-STJ host DePaul Saturday night(6PM-CBS SN). The Muskies are 8-2 at Cintas-#81 in KenPom's Power Ratings-#80 in NCAA NET. Butler's tale of the tape looks like this. 10-6 overall- 1-2 in the BIG East(Tie for 6th with Georgetown, Creighton and De{Paul)-0-3 on the road-#42 Ken Pom-#49 NCAA NET. KenPom has Butler winning at Cintas 70-69 giving Xavier a 48% chance of victory.


The Bulldogs made the NCAAs last spring in Year One under coach Lavall Jordan(21-14)-won their first BE Tournament game ever in NYC-upset Arkansas then lost to Purdue(76-73) in the NCAAs. 6-7 Kelan Martin graduated(25PPG)(scored 59 points in two close losses to Xavier last season). Also gone rugged post Tyler Wideman who provided grit inside.

BU lost early to Dayton(69-64) in the Battle for Atlantis, but bounced back there with a huge win over Florida. Road troubles commenced with a 64-52 loss at St Louis(Travis Ford-A-10). The Dawgs led most of the way in the Crossroads Classic against Indiana at Banker's Life Fieldhouse, but lost 71-68 at the buzzer. The last 4 games have been a struggle(3 losses). There was a revenge road defeat at Florida 77-43.

The BIG EAST opened with a rare Hinkle Fieldhouse loss(84-76 to Georgetown) featuring 15 Bulldog turnovers(average 10)-a big deficit at the FT line-sub par three point shooting and allowing GU's Greg Malinowski to score 26 points. Butler rebounded with a home win over Creighton (84-69) with much better defense and a huge game from guard Kamar Baldwin(28 pints-7 assists). BU trailed almost all night Wednesday at Seton Hall struggling with the three point shot-losing the FT and glass wars and allowing Myles Powell to sink them with 31 points, but Butler hung in-almost climbed the Rock and lost 76-75. That's the thing about "The Butler Way". They may misfire and sputter, but they stay in contact and keep trying(except at Florida).

Baldwin(17PPG-4 assists-5 rebounds-constant steal threat) is an elite all court player up there with Howard and Ponds and Powell. He posts up relentlessly at just 6-1. When Kamar is efficient offensively, BU is tough to beat anywhere. Baldwin with Kelan Martin last year was so hard to contain. Kamar is clearly Option 1 this season. Seton Hall made him shoot 10-27 FG. When Butler develops a second outside scoring threat, watch out. Duke transfer Justin Tucker could be the answer. He just became eligible 7 games ago-can shoot outside and get to the FT line. He is still scrapping off the red shirt rust.

GW transfer Paul Jorgenson(13PPG) has been slumping, but he's a sniper. 6-9 Wing Sean Mc Dermott(10PPG) is a 42% three point shooter. Lanky Henry Baddley has started the last two games. The feel good story comes from 6-11 RS Sophomore 6-11 Joey Brunk(20 points-10 rebounds at Seton Hall). He is starting now over 6-10 Senior Nate Fowler(Moeller HS) and realizing his potential as an inside moose. Fowler hurt XU last season with 20 points in two games.

Soph guard Aaron Thompson is much improved(69 assists-34 turnovers) as a scoring threat. He plays quickly keeping up with Baldwin and he delivers the defense. BU's 3 road defeats have common themes(poor outside shooting-more turnovers than normal-more fouling-fewer rebounds) and just 57PPG. The performance at Seton Hall was a BIG improvement. Butler is very competitive at Cintas, but just 1-4 in Cincy since the BIG East launching. Hopefully, that trend continues!!!


Xavier may get "Q" back. That would help against guard heavy Butler(Baldwin,Thompson, Jorgenson and toss in mobile wings Tucker and Baddley). Baldwin has scored 82 points in 4 starts against XU. He will get his, but make him inefficient. Paul Scruggs can't get into foul trouble guarding Baldwin exclusively. He will need help. X has an edge inside by playing Jones and Hankins together.

Can they avoid foul trouble as they did vs Georgetown? Will Butler kill the Muskies' BIG Line-up by spreading the floor and raining down threes. Can XU zone BU for long stretches? Could Duke transfer Tucker explode against Xavier? His BIG EAST numbers so far are not good(4.7PPG in 19 minutes on 4-23 FG).

Brunk is a whirling dervish handful down low. He needs to be blocked out consistently. X needs more bench minutes from Elias Harden and Ryan Welage and some three point sniping(more than the 3-13 against G-town). Should be a close one!! Butler never just goes away.

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