Xavier (17-12) at Butler (23-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 9, 6:30 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Hinkle Fieldhouse (10,000) -- Indianapolis, Indiana. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: XU 11-4, BU 13-2. Away Record: XU 4-6, BU 7-4. Neutral Record: XU 2-2, BU 3-1. Conference Record: XU 9-6, BU 10-5. Series Record: Xavier leads, 31-16.
GAME NOTES: The Xavier Musketeers step into Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday evening to close out the regular season against Atlantic 10 Conference foe Butler.
This is the 48th meeting between these former Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now Horizon League) rivals. Xavier has won 10 of the last 12 meetings and leads the all-time series, 31-16. These teams met on Nov. 13 at the Cintas Center in the Tip-Off Marathon, and the Musketeers earned the 62-47 victory.
However, this matchup has postseason implications as both teams are bidding to be one of the top four finishers in the A-10 standings and earn a first-round bye in next week's conference tournament. Butler is currently tied with Temple for that No. 4 spot, while Xavier is one game back.
Xavier is coming off an impressive, 77-66 victory over 16th-ranked Saint Louis on Wednesday to close out a four-game homestand. Now, the Musketeers must try to knock off a Butler squad that is 13-2 at home this season and 82-13 at Hinkle Fieldhouse under coach Brad Stevens. The Bulldogs notched a 73-62 win at Massachusetts on Thursday.
Saint Louis had no answer for Xavier's Travis Taylor on Wednesday night, as the senior racked up 19 points, a career-high 19 rebounds and six blocks. Freshman Semaj Christon chipped in with 20 points and tied a career-high with seven rebounds and seven assists. The Musketeers grinded out the double-digit victory over a ranked foe by hitting 26 free throws. Christon leads the team in scoring this season with 15.2 ppg, which is tops among A-10 freshmen. He has been named the conference's Rookie of the Week six times, and he also paces the squad in assists (4.6) and steals (1.4). Taylor (12.0 ppg) is the league's top rebounder with 9.0 rpg, and he is averaging 10.3 boards in league play. The Musketeers lead the A-10 in field goal percentage defense (.403) and they are second in rebounding margin (+5.2), having out-rebounded 17 of their last 19 opponents.
The Bulldogs can also play some defense, as they held a potent UMass squad to its second-lowest scoring output of the season -- the Minutemen avoided their lowest mark thanks to a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Butler shot 50 percent from the floor and made 14 free throws in the second half to stretch its lead to as many as 16. Senior Rotnei Clarke and sophomore Kameron Woods scored 17 apiece to lead four Bulldogs in double figures. Khyle Marshall added 14 points, while Andrew Smith recorded a double-double with 13 points and 15 boards. On the season, five different players are averaging double figures, led by Clarke with 16.5 ppg. A 42 percent shooter from beyond the arc, he is good for 3.5 threes a night. Smith is next in line with 11.1 points and a team-best 5.8 rebounds per tilt.
Xavier won the first meeting rather easily, but that was almost four months ago and it certainly was not inside vaunted Hinkle Fieldhouse. Still, the Musketeers have to be feeling awfully confident after taking down nationally- ranked Saint Louis with relative ease earlier this week.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Xavier 68, Butler 65
03/09 10:40:02 ET