GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 11 Villanova at No. 18 Butler, 7:30 p.m.
From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview.
The only game this weekend between two ranked teams features Villanova going into Hinkle Fieldhouse and taking on a Butler team that has been a bit disappointing early on in league play. The Bulldogs climbed as high as No. 9 in the polls, thanks in large part to an impressive showing in Puerto Rico and a win over Purdue in the Crossroads Classic, but their first two games in the Big East were less than inspiring. Kris Dunn shredded their defense in the second half of a loss in Hinkle, as Butler blew a 13 points lead, and they followed that up with getting drubbed by the Edmond Sumner-less Xavier Musketeers.
At this point, Villanova has to be considered the favorite in the conference — if only because they own a 31-point win over Xavier — but they’re not an ideal matchup for Butler. The way to beat the Bulldogs is with guards that can break down a defense off the dribble. As good as Ryan Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson are, they’re not exactly known for being slashers that the original Gary Payton couldn’t guard.
So this is the kind of gam that Butler could easily win.
And they need it, too.
A loss not only drops them to 1-3 in the conference, it drops them to 0-3 against the other top four teams. If they have any hopes of winning a regular season conference title, this is essentially a must-win.
One thing to watch is whether Roosevelt Jones plays for Butler. He’s questionable due to injury.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1. Trying to stay unbeaten will be No. 15 SMU as they host UCF in American play. The Mustangs can’t make the NCAA tournament this year but you should watch and cheer for them because they’re a good team and senior point guard Nic Moore is playing at a near All-American level.
2. Could it be the return of senior Denzel Valentine after minor knee surgery in late December? That’s what the Player of the Year candidate hinted last week in a report and the No. 5 Spartans are on the road at Penn State after a convincing win over Illinois earlier in the week.
3. No. 16 Louisville takes to the road in the ACC again as they travel to Clemson. Both of these teams are coming off of good wins as the Cardinals bested N.C. State on the road while Clemson also earned an overtime road win at Syracuse. A win at home would make the Tigers 3-1 in the ACC.
4. The only other ranked team playing on Sunday is No. 20 Purdue at Illinois. The Illini are at home and starving for a Big Ten win after an 0-3 start and the Boilers are trying to improve from a 2-1 start after a loss to Iowa.
5. NBCSN will have a triple header on Sunday of Atlantic 10 games. Rhode Island will travel Saint Joseph’s at 12 p.m., Richmond plays at Fordham at 2 p.m. and VCU closes it out at Saint Louis at 4 p.m.
CLICK HERE to watch this game on NBC Sports Live Extra Sunday afternoon.
OTHER NOTABLE GAMES
- Cincinnati at South Florida, 12:00 p.m.
- Valparaiso at Detroit, 1:00 p.m.
- Ohio State at Indiana, 1:30 p.m.
- Tulsa at Tulane, 2:00 p.m.
- N.C. State at Wake Forest, 8:00 p.m.
- Stanford at Oregon, 10:00 p.m.