Game Preview: Butler University Bulldogs

Cute Bulldog

What To Expect:

-Both teams like to control the pace of the game. They each shoot about 72/73 shots per game. The biggest difference is inside the arc. Butler is shooting 46% from inside the arc and URI is shooting 40%. That 6% variance is why Butler scores 71 points per game and URI only scores 62*.

-The Rotnei Clark Show. See below.

– I would guess URI will score about 62 points in this game (61.73). I would also guess that Butler will score about 68 points in this game (68.22)**.

-Having watched URI all season, and seeing Butler struggle at times against other A-10 teams, I know that this game will be closer than most analysts think it will be. Sure Butler will be coming off an embarrassingly bad loss to St. Louis and will be angry and looking to right the ship, but the same thing can be said about VCU coming into URI this past Wednesday. Yes, I expect Butler to win, but I think they will have to earn this win and URI will give them all they can handle.

Defensive Strategies Against Top 3 Players:

-Rotnei Clark (#15): 6’0” 184lbs. G. This guy is far and away their best player and the focal point of the Butler offense. He takes about 19 shots per game which is 25% of Butler’s shots. Think about that: He takes 1 out of every 4 shot attempts made by Butler. He is shooting over 40% from the field and from 3-point land. He also shoots 86% from the FT line. There really is no way to exploit his game. He is too well-rounded. I think URI will just have to do what Doc Rivers and the Celtics used to do against Lebron James when he played for the Cavs. Do not double-team him and allow him to find the open guy. URI will just have to play him man-up and tight defense and hope to shut everyone else down and force Clark to beat you by himself. The only issue here: he is fully capable of doing just that. Just need to have faith that Coach Hurley has taught the Rams enough defensive technique to be able to guard tightly (which I do).

-Andrew Smith (#44): 6’11” 243lbs. C. The guy will give URI fits. He’s athletic, he’s big, and he can rebound. URI has struggled all year with good big men. Smith could very well be the best big man they have faced this year. Like almost every big man, his weakness is at the foul line. Unfortunately, since he shoots about 68% from the FT line, he isn’t bad enough that he should be fouled each time he gets the ball. The only thing I can come up with is if he seems to be getting into a groove and is starting to get more shots and hitting them, start to foul him before he can shoot the ball and put him on the line. URI can then play the percentages knowing that each shot from the line is worth 1 point and not 2 and the fouling will result in fewer points being scored for Butler. The fouling after getting into a groove will completely disrupt his rhythm and likely result in missed FT’s. Then after knocking him out of his rhythm, URI needs to stop fouling him because he will be expecting the foul and start jacking wild shots. What I am basically saying is that the best way to neutralize Smith is to play mind games with him and get in his head.

-Roosevelt Jones (#21): 6’4” 227lbs. F. This guy is tricky. He actually leads the team in assists as a forward (which is strange in the guard-dominated A-10). He puts up 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. Versatile player, for sure, but he has some pretty big holes in his game. He is very turnover prone averaging 3 turnovers a game and he is also horrible from the FT line. He is second on the team in FT attempts (3 behind Smith) and is only shooting 56% from the line. This guy also shoots 51% from the floor. He cannot be allowed to get an open look. If anything, he should be fouled every time he tries to shoot. Would we want him hitting 1 out of 2 2-point shots or hitting 1 out of 2 1-point free throws? Exactly.

Offensive Match-ups/Points:

-Butler is known for their tough defense and has some serious size with their best players. However, they don’t steal the ball much (only 6 per game – same as URI) and they really don’t block shots much (2 per game). For a team with so much size, they really do not block shots or really cause many turnovers. Could this be because not too many teams really attack the basket on them because of their size? The lack of turnovers caused should help URI out a lot and maximize the number of possessions.

-URI pulls down 10 offensive boards per game and Butler pulls down 26 defensive rebounds per game. Based on URI’s shooting percentage, there will be at least 45-50 missed shots. That will leave 9-14 50/50 balls that could be the difference between a win and a loss. Given the size and athleticism of Andrew Smith and the rest of the front court of Butler, I am hoping for a lot of long rebounds that URI’s guards can chase down.

Final Thoughts:

-Butler is a bigger, stronger, deeper, and more talented team than URI. They are coming off a bad loss and playing at home looking to make a statement. They are going to play like a top 10 team and URI will have to step up and give them hell.

-I know URI will lose this game. They should lose this game by 12-15 points. But I just can’t help but feel like this is going to be a tough, hard-fought game and even deep into the second half URI will give us all hope that maybe, just maybe, they could pull off a most improbable upset. I think with the fouling that will happen at the end of the game, Butler will win by 8. But I think it is very likely to be a 5-point game in the final 2 minutes.

—————————————————————————————————————————————

* From 3, both teams take about 19 attempts (only about 25% of the total shots) from beyond the arc; Butler shoots 36% from 3 and URI shoots 33%. Given the small percentage of total shots and small variance in percentage, there is no real difference here.

** Butler is giving up 62 points per game over their last 5 games overall; 56.4 points per game over the last 5 games at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Butler is scoring 64 points per game over their last 5 games overall; 67.2 ppg over the past 5 games at home. URI is giving up 68 ppg to opponents over their last 5 games overall; 72.8 ppg over their last 5 road games. URI is scoring 64.8 ppg over their last 5 games overall; 64.4 ppg over their last 5 road games. I weighed the URI road results and Butler home results slightly higher than both teams’ overall results because those results are more important in this particular match-up.

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