Preview: Butler Bulldogs vs. Saint Louis Billikens

Kamar Baldwin weaves his way through Ohio State's defense. Photo courtesy of the Butler University Men's Basketball Team.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN. – The Butler Bulldogs (5-2) are back in action today at home against the Saint Louis Billikens (3-3). This is Butler’s first game since the PK80: Phil Knight Invitational, from which the Dawgs took home 5th place. Their last game was a thrilling 15 point comeback and OT victory over Ohio State (5-3), 67-66. The Billikens, on the other hand, enter this game on a 3-game losing streak. Their latest loss came against Western Michigan 65-51.  Butler enters this one 12.5 point favorites to win, according to ESPN Pickcenter. The Bulldogs are also a perfect 3-0 at home so far. A lot favors Butler in this game, but too many mistakes could hand the victory over to Saint Louis.

McDermott is Out

Starting forward Sean McDermott is ruled out again for Butler. The team announced earlier this week that he will miss 4-6 weeks with an ankle sprain. Barring any lineup changes, the Bulldogs will likely start Nate Fowler in place of McDermott, which is what they did against OSU. This means that Butler will have to live without their top 3-point shooter for a while longer. That could make a major difference in some cases, especially when facing teams that outgun them on offense. Fortunately, the stats say that Saint Louis is not one of those teams.

Accuracy

With a 44.6% FG% and a 28.8% 3FG%, the Bulldogs are about an average to slightly below-average shooting team in terms of total accuracy (ranked #196 out of 351) and a poor 3-point accuracy team (ranked #318 out of 351) in the context of NCAA D1 teams. Compare that to Saint Louis, however, and the Bulldogs have the edge. The Billikens are shooting a 41.7% FG% (ranked #288 out of 351)  and a 27.0% 3FG% (ranked #337 out of 351) which makes them a below-average to poor shooting accuracy team in general.

NCAA D1 stat rankings are here.

Rough accuracy can be somewhat balanced out by volume though, and with Butler having taken 426 shots to their opponents’ 365 this season, the Bulldogs have found the basket enough times within those 426 shots (they’re 190 of 426) to still be effective scorers against their opponents, who are 167 of 365 against the Dawgs this season.

Butler’s stats are here.

The Billikens are shooting almost exactly on-par with their opponents so far. The Billikens have attempted 321 shots to their opponents’ 323. Furthermore, Saint Louis made 134 of those 321 while giving up 135 of 323 to their foes.

Saint Louis’s stats are here.

Keep in mind, Saint Louis has played 6 games while Butler has played 7 so naturally the Bulldogs’ totals are inflated. But the difference of 105 more shots attempted and 56 more shots made by Butler means that even if both teams had played the same number of games up to this point, Butler would most likely still have an advantage. That gap is just too great for any team to realistically overcome in just 1 game.

Battle of the Big 3s

Forward Kelan Martin (16.0 ppg), guard Kamar Baldwin (12.9 ppg) and forward Tyler Wideman (10.3 ppg) are the big 3 for Butler right now.

Martin is a volume shooter (41 of 107, 38.3%) who can score from anywhere but is particularly effective at driving inside and drawing fouls or scoring off of layups or post-moves. He also grabbed a team-high 48 rebounds going into this game.

Baldwin is another volume shooter (37 of 93, 39.8%), but he’s also the team’s best defender with 16 steals, and his 17 assists make him a solid facilitator.

Wideman is a very high percentage scorer (31 of 46, 67.4%) who at times appears unstoppable in the paint.

Flip the script, and Saint Louis has a trio of their own.

Guard Javon Bess is the Billikens’ leading scorer at 14.2 points per game. He’s shooting 46.7% from the floor and 85.4% on free throws, but his Achilles’ heel seems to be the 3 ball. He’s shooting an abysmal 16.7% from 3.

Billikens forward Jalen Johnson has a mean 3-point shot – he’s shooting an impressive 40.9% from beyond the arc. Johnson also led Saint Louis in scoring in 2 games so far, against Rockhurst and Detroit Mercy. If Johnson gets hot, that could be dangerous for Butler since they don’t really have a great 3-point shooter to answer with at the moment.

Finally, there’s Billikens guard Jordan Goodwin. With a team-high 16 total steals this season, along with a team-high 4.7 assists per game, Goodwin serves as a strong defender and facilitator for Saint Louis. He struggles to score in any fashion though, shooting just 28.6% from the floor and 9.1% from 3.

Tip-off from Hinkle Fieldhouse is at 2:00 PM EST.

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