Tuesday, December 31, 2013
When: 7:30 pm Eastern
RPI: Villanova: 6 | Butler: 33
KenPom: Villanova: 8 | Butler: 51
Hinkle Fieldhouse (Capacity: 10,000)
Where: Indianapolis, IN
TV: Fox Sports 1 (Gus Johnson, Bill Raftery)
Radio: 610 WIP
Odds: Villanova -3.5
It's pretty simple: Villanova has faced the Bulldogs just once, on November 30, 1996. The Wildcats were victorious by a score of 62-54. That will change, with the teams squaring off twice a year for the foreseeable future.
Butler has surprised many people so far this year, going 10-2 in non-conference play. Their only two losses thus far are to then 5th-ranked Oklahoma St. and to a 9-2 LSU squad. Both losses were by two points, and the fall to the Tigers was in overtime. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are ranked 6th in the nation and continue to look like the best team in the Big 12.
The Bulldogs have not blown away many of their opponents, with six single-digit wins. But they win games and play decent defense in doing so (although they should provide a bit of an easier game than Syracuse did).
Butler is led by Kellen Dunham and Khyle Marshall. Dunham is unconscious from deep this year, hitting 45% of his attempts from three. He averages 18.1 points per game. Marshall, a 6'6 forward, chips in 17 ppg while grabbing nearly 7 boards per game. Only one player who sees consistent minutes has a positive A/TO ratio, junior guard Alex Barlow. Kameron Woods is basically averaging a double-double on the season at 9.6 and 9.8.
Free throw shooting is the bane of Butler's existence thus far, as they shoot 65.6 percent from the stripe this year. Of the eight players earning 10+ minutes, three of them shoot under 60 percent, including Marshall (54%) and Woods (58.9%).
After Brad Stevens, who is famous for bringing Butler to multiple NCAA Championship games in recent memory, ditched the collegiate level for the Boston Celtics, Brandon Miller took over the team, and this is his first year at the helm. So far, the Bulldogs have not skipped a beat.
Miller has been known as a relentless competitor since he was a kid, even playing through a dislocated knee in his high school playoffs. He then played college hoops for a year at Southwest Missouri State before transferring to Butler to finish his career. He played through a shoulder injury his entire sophomore season, and during his senior year led the Bulldogs to a Sweet 16 run as a 12 seed, hitting a 10-foot floater a la Scottie Reynolds to upset 5th-seeded Mississippi State. He was selected to Butler's Team of the Sesquicentennial as one of the Bulldogs' top 15 players of all time.
He was a video intern for Xavier under head coach Thad Matta, and went to Ohio State when Matta was hired by the Buckeyes. He then worked as an assistant for Butler, had a second brief stint with Ohio State staff before signing on with Illinois as an assistant. In April, he rejoined Brad Stevens' staff before being named Stevens' replacement.
Emmy-winning orchestra conductor George Daugherty is a Bulldog through and through, as are IndyCar drivers Sarah Fisher and Ed Carpenter. Current Major League Baseball players Dan Johnson of the Tampa Bay Rays and Pat Neshek of the Oakland Athletics played for Butler as well. Ohio State coach Thad Matta attended Butler, and went on to coach there earlier in his career.
Current Butler President James Danko is the former dean of the Villanova School of Business. After taking over in 2005, he brought VSB from unranked to No. 7 in a few years, and applications to the schools more than doubled during his tenure. He was named Butler University's president in April of 2011.