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College Basketball Pick
This week put Xavier and Butler to the ultimate tests, both with extremely difficult schedules. Both teams had road games at top-10 teams earlier in the week and now get to face each other with the Musketeers getting the short end of having back-to-back road games against top-12 teams. At the least, this is another huge game in Big East play.
That said, even with a loss for either team, it wouldn't derail either side's season. The Bulldogs already have top wins over the likes of Arizona, Cincinnati, Indiana and Villanova. While their losses are somewhat questionable (Indiana State, St. John's), they still have the resume of a team with at least a 4-seed come tournament time. Winning a couple more home games against teams like Xavier and Creighton would only help that case.
It's a bit different for Xavier, which didn't have any great non-conference wins and its loss to Colorado doesn't look good. A loss wouldn't hurt them here, but a win would give them a nice road victory, which the committee loves when seeding teams. These two aren't all that different from a season ago when Xavier won both meetings by large margins. But even with that being the case, it's hard to see the same happening again, even if the Musketeers are simply better suited to deal with the tough, slow-it-down pace of Butler.
The Bulldogs are the definition of methodical when they have the ball, which is how it usually is. They rarely turn it over and usually take quality shots. The biggest difference for this year's group is that the defensive side is even better and that was seen after holding previously undefeated Villanova to 58 points last week. Even with an efficient Xavier offense coming in, that could play a big factor.
Butler lost a couple important pieces, but still have Kelan Martin (17.4 ppg, 5.5 reb) and Andrew Chrabascz (11.9 ppg, 5.0 reb) to lead the way. The improved part is that all of their role players have picked it up with Tyler Wideman, Kamar Baldwin and Avery Woodson all averaging at least eight points per game. Then there's still senior point guard Tyler Lewis who's averaging 4.4 assists per game. It's a classic Bulldogs team, but they're having more success for the time being.
The question will be if the Musketeers can do the same thing as a year ago when they had no issues scoring on this defense. In the two games, they went 19-for-39 from long range and shot over 60% on two-pointers. Those numbers are incredible especially going against one of the best three-point defenses in the nation. But can Xavier do that again?
As a team, they haven't been shooting nearly as well with Trevon Bluiett at 34.6% and J.P Macura at 33.3% from three-point range. And as their schedule picks up, those numbers won't get them many wins against better teams, Villanova and Butler included. Xavier went just 6-of-32 from three in Tuesday's 25-point loss at Nova. In addition, the Musketeers just aren't as deep, although the return of senior guard Myles Davis (10.8 ppg, 3.6 reb, 4.1 ast in 2015-16) could be the boost they need. With Davis in the squad, that adds another consistent scorer to the bunch to go with Edmond Sumner, who has taken up a bigger role in Davis's absence.
Of course, Davis has missed the first couple months of the season and it'll take some time before he gels with his teammates (0-5 FG in 13 minutes on Tuesday). And that's where Xavier's problem comes in for this game against a Butler team that already beat Villanova at home.
Our Pick - Butler by 6
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