- The Xavier Musketeers (11-4, 4-4 Big East) host the Butler Bulldogs (7-12, 6-10 Big East) Sunday, Feb. 21
- Both teams are coming off two straight losses entering the matchup
- Read below for odds, analysis, and our best bet for this matchup
The Xavier Musketeers (11-4, 4-4 Big East), coming off losses to Connecticut and St. John’s, host the Butler Bulldogs (7-12, 6-10 Big East) Sunday, February 21 in Cincinnati. Tip is set for 7pm ET at the Cintas Center.
Prior to its two-game skid, Travis Steele’s team knocked off the Bulldogs 68-55 January 30 in Indy. LaVall Jordan’s squad has played five games since that defeat, going 2-3 over that stretch. Xavier’s utter lack of conference games — the Musketeers have played in a Big East-low eight — puts added significance on each outing. A loss to the once-formidable Dawgs would be devastating for the Musketeers’ NCAA Tournament hopes.
It’s not surprising Steele’s team is favored in the rematch between the Midwest programs Sunday.
Butler vs Xavier Odds
|Butler||+8 (-106)||N/A||Ov 134 (-110)|
|Xavier||-8 (-116)||N/A||Un 134 (-110)|
Odds taken Feb. 20 at FanDuel
Season of Giving
Butler was limited to 34-percent shooting from the field against Marquette in a 73-57 loss to the Golden Eagles Wednesday. The Bulldogs were without senior forward and the team’s leading rebounder, Bryce Nze, who missed the game with a groin injury. Meanwhile, fellow senior Bo Hodges, was limited to only 15 minutes due to a calf strain. Without the presence of two key upperclassmen on the floor, the Bulldogs were in the mood of giving — and not in a good way.
Butler committed 21 fouls, six more than Marquette. But those whistles really helped the Golden Eagles at the foul line. Marquette went to the charity stripe 27 times, converting 24 of those. Butler went 12-of-18 from the line. Not bad — but not nearly as good as Marquette. The disparity ended up essentially being the difference in the game.
Butler needs to shoot better if it wants to avenge that loss from three weeks ago. But more importantly, the Bulldogs need to play fundamentally sound defense — and hope its seniors are back on the court.
Sunday’s rematch between the two teams presents a contrast in style for the Musketeers over two games. While the Johnnies are one of, if not, the fastest teams in the league, the Bulldogs are not. St. John’s pushes the ball to the tune of 112.9 points per 100 possessions, good for 34th in the country. Butler, on the other hand, goes for 102.6 points per 100 possessions, which ranks 179th.
The fast pace of Tuesday’s 93-84 defeat to St. John’s suited Xavier’s leading scorer, Zach Freemantle, just fine. The sophomore forward had a game-high 22 points.
Another player who stepped up in the loss was Colby Jones. The freshman guard poured in 20 in 26 minutes off the bench. If Steele’s younger players step up again, the Musketeers should be in good shape.
Regardless of individual performances, Xavier needs to take care of the basketball against Butler each possession and find the right shot. Butler will bring toughness — and Xavier has to match that. Steele told the media this week his team needs to assert its pace. If not, Butler will take the air out of the ball and dramatically slow things down. Now Xavier is able to handle that contrast in styles over five days will be critical.
Bryce & Bo a Go?
As noted above, Nze’s status is a huge factor if the Bulldogs hope to pull off the upset. Xavier is preparing as if he will play, although his status is still uncertain.
Along with leading the team in boards, he also scores 10.7 points per game and played well in the first meeting between the Bulldogs and Musketeers, posting a team-high 16 points and 11 rebounds.
The other question mark is Hodges. The East Tennessee State transfer made his debut for Butler in the first meeting against Xavier a few weeks ago. He provided quite the spark with 11 points and six rebounds off the bench. Hodges nearly had a triple-double three days later against Marquette.
If one — or both players — can go, it shifts Butler’s chances a bit. If they can’t, Xavier should win easily. Available or not, I’m still fading Butler. Xavier knows it needs to win games like this if it wants to get back the tourney for the first time since 2018, Chris Mack’s last season in the Queen City.
The pick: Xavier -8 (-116)