Xavier vs Butler
When: 7:00 PM ET, Thursday, March 9, 2017
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York
NEW YORK – (Special Preview for Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – Butler already has defeated Xavier twice this season, and a third victory would send the 20th-ranked Bulldogs into the semifinals of the Big East tournament. Second-seeded Butler and seventh-seeded Xavier square off in New York City on Thursday in a matchup that could determine the Musketeers’ NCAA Tournament fate.
Xavier lost six straight games before defeating DePaul in the regular-season finale and then again in Wednesday’s opening round, but most projections have the team right on the cut line for the Field of 68. The Musketeers lost to the Bulldogs by five points in mid-January and nine in late February, allowing a whopping total of 108 in the second half of those contests. “I thought Butler really took it to us in the second half,” Xavier coach Chris Mack told reporters after the first matchup, while Butler coach Chris Holtmann said after the second meeting, “It’s an incredibly significant accomplishment, to come on the road and get two wins against this quality of opponent and to have the season that we’ve had up to this point.” The Bulldogs need to quickly shake off the disappointment of losing on Senior Day, when Seton Hall dealt them a six-point setback.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FS1
ABOUT XAVIER (20-12): The Musketeers are short-handed for a variety of reasons, including a torn ACL suffered last month by Edmond Sumner, but they continue to take advantage of their meetings with DePaul. In Wednesday’s affair, Trevon Bluiett recorded 17 points and nine rebounds while J.P. Macura chipped in 13 points and six assists. Bluiett missed two games with an ankle injury but has played 191 of a possible 200 minutes since his return and has averaged 18.2 points in those contests, practically matching his scoring average for the season.
ABOUT BUTLER (23-7): The Bulldogs scored 64 points against Seton Hall – their lowest-scoring game since January – as they were trounced on the boards 35-24 and missed 15 of their 21 3-point attempts. The starters combined for 11 rebounds in 132 minutes and, aside from Avery Woodson’s 3-of-4 shooting from long distance, the rest of the team was ice cold. Top scorer Kelan Martin (16.1 points) is averaging 22 points over his last three games, including a 25-point effort in the most-recent meeting with Xavier.
1. The winner plays either No. 3 seed Providence or No. 6 seed Creighton in Friday’s semifinals.
2. In its last nine games, Xavier is 3-0 against DePaul and 0-6 against everyone else.
3. Macura, an 81-percent foul shooter, has failed to attempt a free throw in his last two games.