Villanova holds the 2-0 series lead between the two schools. Before their New Year's Eve match up, 'Nova downed Butler, 62-54 back on November 30th, 1996. In their last meeting (and first as Conference foes), Villanova was able to pull out a gutsy win in OT at Hinkle, 76-73.
Butler has been a bit of a disappointment this year. After initially surprising a lot of people by going 10-2 in their early Non-Conference schedule, including a close loss to then #5 Oklahoma St. by 2 points, the Indianapolis team has dropped off. However, over the course of the Big East schedule, they have regressed and have won 2 of 15 games in the conference. A mark that puts them in last place with DePaul.
The Bulldogs have lost 6 games by less than 7 points. They have managed to but up a fight in the majority of their games, having played in 4 OT times over the course of the Big East season. Their conference victories have come over Marquette and at Seton Hall.
The transition from the Horizon League, to the A-10, to the Big East has not been easy. It would be fair to say that the Bulldog players are not physical enough to handle the Big East play with the majority of players recruited to play in the Horizon or Atlantic 10.
Butler is led by Kellen Dunham and Khyle Marshall. Dunham, the team's leading scorer, has regressed to the mean; after averaging 45% from 3 in the Non-Conference, he is now averaging 36% from the field. His points per-game have also decreased- from 18.1 to 16.9. Marshall, a 6'6" senior, also has regressed, from 17 ppg, to 14.9. While his rebounding went from 7 boards, all the way down to 4.9 rpg.
Outside of those two players, no one else is averaging over 8 ppg.
Additionally, Butler is also horrible from the free throw line averaging only 67% from the charity stripe. Overall, their scoring output of 69.5 ppg ranks them 225th in the nation. In Conference games, Butler is last in offense and second to last in defense.
There is no reason Villanova shouldn't win this game by over 15 points.
The loss of Brad Stevens seems to really have hurt the Butler Bulldogs. Stepping in for Stevens has been Brandon Miller, who has seemed to flounder in the increasingly difficult Big East.
Miller played for a year at Southwest Missouri State before transferring to Butler. During his senior year he led the Bulldogs to a Sweet 16 run as a 12 seed to upset 5th-seeded Mississippi State.He is considered one of Butler's top 15 players of all time.
Miller began his career as a video intern for Xavier under head coach Thad Matta. From there he went on to Ohio St. with Matta when he left Xavier. In 2007 Miller left Ohio St. and became an assistant coach at Butler for one year before returning to Matta's staff. In 2011, he quit coaching and got a sales job at Forest Pharmaceuticals. After a year off, he got the coaching bug and rejoined Butler's staff in April 2013 ascending to the head spot following Stevens' departure for the Celtics.
The head coach of the Baylor Bears Basketball, Scott Drew, along with the head coach of Ohio St., Thad Matta, both an call Butler University home. As Kevin previously mentioned, Emmy-winning conductor George Daugherty also is a graduate of Butler.