Condolences to Eagles fans for Sunday, but as the attention turns to college basketball, hopefully the Villanova Wildcats can provide a little bit of relief after heartbreak.
The ‘Cats are back in action on Valentine’s Day, as they host Butler for a rematch on Tuesday.
Villanova enters 12-13 overall and 6-8 in Big East play. The ‘Cats will look to build off of their recent back-to-back wins.
Meanwhile, Butler is 13-13 and 5-10 in conference play. The Bulldogs are also entering Tuesday night with a two-game winning streak after a rough late-January stretch.
Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET. If you can’t make it to Finneran Pavilion, the game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.
Out of the doghouse
It cannot be stated enough that there are two forms of Butler, the Bulldogs when they play at Hinkle Fieldhouse — and when they’re out of the comfort of their home arena.
Villanova’s succumbed to Hinkle Magic in past years and this season was no different, as the Jan. 13 road trip resulted in a loss. The Bulldogs posted 79 points in the win, which was their second-highest point total against a Big East opponent so far this season.
Shortly after that win, the Bulldogs struggled immensely, particularly on the offensive end. They went on to lose five straight, averaging a meager 53.4 points per game during this stretch.
Butler has bounced back since then, with a couple of home wins where it managed to do just enough to edge out St. John’s, but more impressively, Xavier — although that goaltend call continues to be discussed.
However, Butler is 10-4 at Hinkle Fieldhouse, and only 3-9 outside of it at away or neutral-site venues. The Bulldogs’ road woes, plus the ‘Cats gaining some traction since the return of Justin Moore, all could potentially result in some more good things for Villanova.
Breaking down the Bulldogs
Fortunately, the scouting report shouldn’t be too deep or difficult for the ‘Cats to digest. Butler only runs a seven-man rotation, although it was able to get away with a six-man rotation in its big win over Xavier.
Butler ranks 332nd in the NCAA for bench minutes, plus the ‘Cats already got one look at the Bulldogs, so they’ll be very familiar with their personnel.
One difference from last time though was Butler did not have Manny Bates available on Jan. 13. Bates has played a big part in their two recent wins, amassing a combined 34 points on 15-of-21 shooting, with 10 boards, seven assists and eight blocks.
He provides a much-needed element of size and a presence inside and on the glass, two areas that the Bulldogs struggle with as a unit. The 6-foot-11 senior has made an immediate impact since transferring in from N.C. State.
With Bates back, 6-foot-10 senior Jalen Thomas transitioned back to his role as a go-to guy off the bench. Thomas played well against the ‘Cats in their previous meeting, chipping in 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting, with five boards.
The matchup between Eric Dixon and Bates will be one to watch. It’ll also be interesting to see how Villanova handles Simas Lukosius, who dropped a career-high 28 points on the Wildcats the last time out. He hasn’t eclipsed the 20-point mark since then, but remains a perimeter threat, especially when he’s able to get going. Lukosius averages 11.5 points per game and shoots a 41.9% from long range.
Another difference from the Jan. 13 meeting is Jayden Taylor will be back in the starting five. He came off the bench against the ‘Cats, and remained there through the Bulldogs’ rough patch. He was recently inserted into the starting lineup though and has helped add a punch in their recent wins.
Taylor is a two-way guard that averages a team-high 12.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.4 steals and shoots 41.7% overall.
Also keep an eye on seniors Eric Hunter Jr. and Ali Ali, two versatile players that fill out the rest of their rotation. While they’re not primary options, they have had their moments, especially Hunter Jr.
Chuck Harris is one of the program’s OGs, sticking things out through the coaching change. Harris has been an impact player for the Bulldogs since day one his freshman year, but he’s missed the last couple of weeks due to a concussion. It seems like a return could be any day now, and it very well could be against Villanova.
Harris is another one of the Bulldogs’ top producers, averaging 11.7 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.
Be prepared for another grind-it-out game. While Butler has struggled offensively and on the glass, it also likes to play at a slow pace and uses gritty defense, especially at the perimeter, to help keep things within reach.
Also, while the Bulldogs will be happy to have Bates back, this will only be the second game where Villanova is back at full strength. Butler has a few more pieces to prepare for, especially with Justin Moore back and Jordan Longino working to hit his stride again.