Tuesday's Preview: Butler at Gonzaga

    
December 19th, 2011
Tuesday night's action features a few critical match ups when considering at-large possibilities in March, with one such game being Butler (5-6) taking on Gonzaga (7-2) in Spokane. Brad Stevens' Bulldogs looked to be in serious trouble on Saturday but a furious rally to beat Purdue may have been the win that sparks a turnaround. But they didn't do themselves many favors in that regard from a scheduling standpoint, with Gonzaga boasting a 93-7 record in the McCarthey Athletic Center.

Gonzaga jumped Arizona early on Saturday with Elias Harris playing arguably his best game of the season in the 71-60 victory, and they're one of the favorites in the WCC with BYU and Saint Mary's also in the discussion. Both have played tough schedules to date but with an 0-3 road record, Butler needs this one with a return to Horizon League play right around the corner.

Job one for Butler will be to limit the effectiveness of Harris (13.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg) and Robert Sacre (14.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg), because when these two have it rolling offensively Gonzaga is a very difficult team to stop. Both have good field goal percentages while Harris is also shooting at a 42% clip from beyond the arc, and his versatility could be an issue for the Butler front court. Andrew Smith (10.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg), who scored the game-winner on Saturday, and Khyle Marshall (10.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg) are Butler's best front court players thus far. They'll need to be once again, with some help from Roosevelt Jones (5.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg), in order to have a shot at pulling off the win.

Gonzaga can also call upon Sam Dower (6.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg), who is capable of having a noticeable impact on the game despite averaging just 16 minutes per contest. Gonzaga's been the better rebounding team of the two with a margin of plus-6.2 (Butler has a margin of plus-3.0), and with GU grabbing nearly 39% of their misses Butler has to keep those second-chance opportunities to a minimum. Butler's done a good job of that to date, allowing the opposition to corral 28.5% of their missed shots.

The play on the perimeter offers up a nice contrast, with Gonzaga's guards being the more aggressive of the two groups when it comes to scoring. Freshman Kevin Pangos (13.1 ppg, 3.7 apg) has been very good for Gonzaga in his inaugural campaign, as he can take full advantage of the opportunities that come his way while also taking care of the basketball. Classmate Gary Bell (8.4 ppg) is fourth on the team in minutes while veterans David Stockton and Marquise Carter also playing key roles in the Gonzaga attack.

As for Butler senior Ronald Nored (5.4 ppg, 4.9 apg) is shooting just 32% from the field and 20% from three, but his true value comes on the defensive end of the floor. Nored is averaging 2.5 steals per game and is a handful for opposing point guards on that end of the floor. The key scorers for Butler on the perimeter are Chase Stigall (9.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg) and Chrishawn Hopkins (9.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg), and both will need to shoot better than their current 35% clips on Tuesday night.

As a team Butler makes just 39.1% of their shots from the field and 28.9% from beyond the arc, but those numbers could see an increase on Tuesday with Gonzaga allowing teams to shoot 43.5% and 37.2% in those areas. Gonzaga's points allowed per possession number is equal to what Butler averages on offense (0.97), so the key will be how well Butler defends a team that averages 1.1 points per possession. There's no doubt that Butler is tough enough to hang around, but are they efficient enough? That's the key.

The best game involving a ranked team is #4 Louisville hosting a 9-1 College of Charleston team that's got a pair of nice weapons in point guard Andrew Lawrence and forward Antwaine Wiggins. Inside the Cougars look to senior Trent Wiedeman to lead the way, but he'll have his hands full with a deep Cardinals front court. Gorgui Dieng was outstanding in Louisville's win over Memphis, and the next step in his progression is to be a consistent force in the paint. The same goes for Russ Smith on the perimeter, as the Big East Player of the Week can both amaze and infuriate within the same possession.

Old Dominion visiting Richmond has the look of being an entertaining game to watch, but how pretty it will be likely depends on the Monarchs. Blaine Taylor's team can be as fun to deal with from a defensive standpoint as a root canal, as they make teams earn every foot of space on the floor. UNC Asheville has a realistic shot at beating Tennessee in Knoxville as does Mercer in their game at Georgia, and the same goes for St. Bonaventure as they take on NC State in Rochester. Out west, college hoops fans need to keep an eye on Oakland's game at Arizona.

Reggie Hamilton is one of the most prolific guards in the country, most recently shown in his 41-point outing (and game-winning shot) at Valparaiso on Saturday. Arizona's Kyle Fogg is a good defender as is freshman Nick Johnson, but the Wildcats still have plenty to figure out as they approach Pac-12 play. And it goes without saying that the much-maligned league that lacks a marquee non-conference win at this stage can ill-afford many more losses in games the masses believe they "should" win.

Top 25 Games
7:00 PM Bucknell at (1) Syracuse (ESPNU)
8:30 PM Lamar at (2) Ohio State (BTN)
7:00 PM Samford at (3) Kentucky (ESPN2)
9:00 PM Charleston at (4) Louisville (ESPNU)
7:00 PM St. Francis (PA) at (14) Pittsburgh (ESPN3)

NCAA Division I Games
TBA Rust College at Alcorn State
6:30 PM IPFW at Purdue (BTN)
7:00 PM Mercer at Georgia (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Manhattan at Towson
7:00 PM NC State vs. St. Bonaventure*
7:00 PM Evansville at Miami (OH)
7:00 PM Old Dominion at Richmond
7:00 PM Montreat College at Liberty
7:00 PM Texas State at Long Island
7:00 PM Furman at Presbyterian
7:00 PM New Hampshire at Providence (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Eastern Michigan at Radford
7:00 PM Hampton at Robert Morris
7:00 PM UNC Asheville at Tennessee (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Norfolk State at Toledo
7:00 PM Winthrop at Western Michigan
7:00 PM Idaho at Wright State
7:05 PM Arkansas-Little Rock at Illinois State
7:30 PM St. Peter's vs. Kent State*
7:30 PM Prairie View A&M vs. Stephen F. Austin*
7:30 PM UAB at VCU
8:00 PM Eastern Kentucky at Arkansas
8:00 PM Oakland at Arizona (FSN AZ+)
8:00 PM Western Carolina at Bradley
8:00 PM Central Michigan at Nebraska (BTN.com)
8:00 PM UTSA at Houston (CSS)
8:00 PM Grambling State at North Texas
8:00 PM Northeastern at Louisiana Tech
8:00 PM Valparaiso at Northern Illinois
8:00 PM Ohio at Northern Iowa
8:00 PM Northern Arizona at Sam Houston State
8:00 PM Southern Utah at Troy
9:00 PM Montana State at New Mexico
9:00 PM Buffalo at BYU (BYU TV)
9:00 PM Butler at Gonzaga (ESPN2)
10:00 PM UC Davis at San Jose State
10:00 PM North Carolina Central at Oregon
10:05 PM Texas-Arlington at Utah State
10:30 PM UC Irvine at UCLA (FS PT)