Butler had a great chance to add another top win on its resume, but faltered in overtime against Xavier on Tuesday. This time around, the Bulldogs will try and sweep Villanova, which seems like an almost impossible task these days. Then again, ‘Nova fell at home to St. John’s and Wednesday and is dealing with numerous injuries with Eric Paschall (28.8 minutes per Game) most recently added to the list due to a concussion.
In the first meeting between these teams over a month ago and Villanova’s only loss, it was an almost perfect Game for the home team. Butler was unfathomable from three-point land going a ridiculous 15-of-22. Even though the Bulldogs turned it over 13 times, they still managed to reach 101 points shooting 60 percent from the field. Maybe equally impressive was that Villanova battled the entire way and still only lost by eight points, 101-93. Butler was up by 20 points in the second half until about the five-minute mark when the Wildcats started pushing. ‘Nova managed to go 26-of-36 on two-pointers and turn the ball over only three times.
So while Butler won the first meeting, it’s hard to see a repeat happening unless it again catches fire from deep. It can’t be forgotten that Phil Booth is injured and while he only scored Four points that first meeting, still played 32 minutes. Without Booth, ‘Nova has relied almost exclusively on five guys with Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree and Collin Gillespie playing more depending on the matchup. The absence of Booth has led to more minutes for just about everyone and mostly Donte DiVincenzo, who isn’t much of a downgrade if one at all. The problem is that with Paschall also out, Cosby-Roundtree and Gillespie combined for 47 minutes against St. John’s. Gillespie hit some shots, but those two average a combined 27.5 minutes this season.
The interesting thing to see will be how Jay Wright attacks Butler because he went small in that first meeting with Omari Spellman playing just 24 minutes. It’ll be tough for him to do that again because that would mean Cosby-Roundtree and Gillespie are in at the same time.
All that said, Butler isn’t the same team on the road and has lost to any relevant team away from home. The Bulldogs won big at Marquette in their last road Game, but also lost convincingly to Xavier, Creighton and Providence. They have the type of lineup that can give Villanova trouble because the teams are extremely similar. Butler can either put five shooters on the cOurt or roll with Tyler Wideman down low and have Four shooters around him. That’s what Villanova often does with Spellman, although he’s also making 44.4% from deep.
Butler’s defense has been an issue throughout the season and allowing 37.5% from three will probably come up in this Game against the most efficient offense in the country. The Wildcats should be able to Scoreeasily, but again, the absence of Booth and Paschall can’t be overlooked. Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges were dominant in that first Game with a combined 52 points and nothing points to them being stopped here.
Simply put, the only way for the Bulldogs to steal another win is if they go unconscious from deep. That also includes getting points from the bench, which they did in the first meeting when they got 26 points on 10-of-11 shooting. Kelan Martin, Kemar Baldwin and Paul Jorgensen are all good players that can score, but they also all shoot less than 38% from deep and repeating that last performance is almost impossible. Look for Villanova to continue scoring and get some revenge on Butler at home.
Our Pick – Butler +10.5