After their successful Big East opener against Georgetown, The No. 7 Villanova Wildcats (5-1) will face the Butler Bulldogs (1-0) on Wednesday at home. The game is scheduled for tipoff at 7 p.m. ET and can be seen on Fox Sports 1.
‘Cats and ‘Dogs
Last year, the Bulldogs (10-8 in conference play) finished fifth in the Big East. Butler’s success was largely attributed to do-it-all guard Kamar Baldwin, who led their offense with 16.2 points per game. In their first matchup, Villanova managed a 76-61 victory with help from Jermaine Samuels’ 21 points. The Bulldogs struggled from the line (4-of-8) and from beyond the arc (5-of-20). However, in their second game, Butler escaped with a buzzer-beater 79-76 win. Despite a combined 57 points from Saddiq Bey and Collin Gillespie, the Bulldogs got hot and never cooled down. Aside from Baldwin’s heroics, Sean McDermott shot 7-of-8, including 3-of-3 from downtown. Bryce Golden also added 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting.
Key Departures and Additions
Butler lost many of its top players from last season, including Baldwin and McDermott, who were crucial in their win over Villanova. Jair Bolden, a graduate transfer who averaged nine points per game at South Carolina, is expected to take over as shooting guard. The Bulldogs also got another incoming transfer from Bo Hodges, but he may have to sit this season out pending a crucial Dec. 16 vote by the NCAA to decide if transfers should receive immediate eligibility.
Aside from transfers, Butler welcomed five freshmen. Leading the group of first-year players is Myles Tate, who averaged 15 points per game at Dorman High School (Roebuck, S.C.), leading them to four state championships. Chuck Harris, another four-star freshman guard, averaged 12 points and was considered one of the top 25 guards in the country.
A Close One
On Nov. 25, the Bulldogs escaped with a 66-62 win over the Western Michigan Broncos. Senior guard Aaron Thompson secured the victory with 21 points, his career high. Additionally, Jair Bolden shined in his first game as a Bulldog with 15 points and 9 rebounds. Still, the Broncos kept themselves in the game by hitting nine threes and doing well at the line. After cutting the lead down to 3 in the last minute of the game, the Broncos went cold, allowing Butler to win its first game of the season.
In the Doghouse
Shortly after its win against Western Michigan, one Butler player tested positive for COVID-19. Since then, the Bulldogs have had to cancel or postpone four games, including Eastern Illinois, Northern Kentucky, Kansas State, and St. John’s. Group workouts resumed in the first week of December, but as of December 9th, the full team still had not practiced together.
Between adjusting to new players and coming back from weeks without a true practice, Butler will likely struggle against Villanova’s experienced team. Once the Bulldogs get back on their feet, their talented recruits could pose a threat to the rest of the conference.