Game Preview: #13 Butler vs Valparaiso

January 29th, 2009

Valparaiso Crusaders

Record: 6-15 (1-7 away)
Conference: Horizon (3-7)
Rankings: N/A (vs. Butler #13 AP, #13 Coaches)
RPI: No. 227 (vs. Butler #8)
Sagarin’s: No. 271 (vs. Butler #16)
Last Five: 1-4

Notes: Valpariaso pulled off one of the most surprising upsets in the first half of HL play, beating third-place Milwaukee by 12 at home last week. In that game, the Crusaders zone gave UWM fits and Jake Diebler scored 19 points. Meanwhile, in the first match-up with Butler, Valpo guard Brandon McPherson played valiantly with an injured knee, scoring 22 points. For some reason, McPherson plays more like Ty Lawson than, well…himself, when he plays Butler. Too bad for Valpo, he re-aggregated his injury in that game and is out for the year.

Other stats:

Scoring margin: -5.3
Rebounding margin: -1.8 (8th HL)
Turnover Per Game: 15.0

Starters

Valpo PG Buggs, Eric 6’0 150lbs FR
PPG: 5.3, RPG: 3.1, APG: 2.7
Butler PG Nored, Ronald 6’0 170lbs FR
PPG: 3.3, RPG: 3.1, APG: 2.6

Both Buggs and Nored continue to adjust to the college game while playing significant minutes. Nored is struggling to find his game offensively. In the Bulldogs last seven conference games, the freshman is averaging 1.5 ppg. Expect him to see less minutes in the second half of conference play with the emergence of sophomores Shawn Vanzant and Zach Hahn.

Advantage: Push

Valpo SG Diebler, Jake 6’2 180lbs SR
PPG: 7.7, RPG: 2.3, APG: 1.5
Butler SG Mack, Shelvin 6’3 185lbs FR
PPG: 13.1, RPG: 3.8, APG: 3.9

Diebler appears to be in a shooting rhythm following back-to-back games with five three-pointers. The senior and heart-and-soul of the Crusaders is averaging 10 ppg since playing Butler. We know Mack can score, but where he really helps Butler is in his ability to create shots for teammates. He knows where Hayward is on the floor at all times. Those two have incredible chemistry. Look for it the next time you watch a game.

Advantage: Butler

Valpo G Little, Howard 6’3 210lbs SO
PPG: 9.2, RPG: 5.1, APG: 1.4
Butler F Hayward, Gordon 6’8 180lbs FR
PPG: 12.7, RPG: 6.4, APG: 1.8

Little had a career game last Saturday, scoring 28 points on six 3-pointers. He’s scored in double digits in four straight games and has become a viable second option to Igbavboa. Hayward has been getting love from like likes of Jay Bilas and Bob Knight of late. We know he can stroke it, but once he becomes more confident taking it to the rim, an absolute star will be born.

Advantage: Butler

Valpo F Rodgers, Michael 6’5 215lbs SO
PPG: 9, RPG: 4.7, APG: 1.5
Butler F Veasley, Willie 6’3 190lbs JR
PPG: 8.7, RPG: 4, APG: 1.3

Rodgers, a Jamaican native, is a better baller than bobsledder. He’s tripled his scoring output from last year. He and Little will give Valpo a solid core for the next two years. Veasley continues to do what he does. Play lockdown defense. Make timely baskets. And exemplify The Butler Way.

Advantage: Butler

Valpo F Igbavboa, Urule 6’9 230lbs SR
PPG: 11.2, RPG: 5.2, APG: 2
Butler C Howard, Matt 6’8 220lbs SO
PPG: 13.5, RPG: 6.7, APG: 1

The battle between the bigs will be one of the keys to the game. Igbovboa scored 17 in the first match up and got Howard in foul trouble early. Still, Butler’s super-soph managed 16 points in 22 minutes. If he can stay out of foul trouble, look for a big game from the Butler Ugroup Mid-Season POY.

Advantage: Butler

Bench

Valpo
G Haskins, De’Andre Haskins 6’4 180lbs FR PPG: 5.8, RPG: 2.7, APG: 1.3
F Witt, Cameron 6’9 205lbs FR PPG: 4, RPG: 1.5, APG: 0.4
G Jones, Logan 6’3 200 FR PPG: 1.7, RPG: 1.4, APG: 1.7

Butler
G Hahn, Zach 6’0 170lbs SO PPG: 5.2, RPG: 1.6, APG: 0.9
F Jukes, Avery 6’8 215lbs JR PPG: 4.1, RPG: 2.3, APG: 0.4
G Vanzant, Shawn 6’1 175lbs SO PPG: 4.1, RPG: 1.8, APG: 1.2

The injury to MacPherson makes Valpo’s bench extremely slim (just three players). Don’t expect any gaming changing from these guys. Butler’s bench, on the other hand, is making big time contributions. They outscored the starters against UWM. Vanzant, especially, was outstanding, scoring double-digits for the first time in his career (20) with Grant Leindecker (12).

Advantage: Butler

Final Analysis: Butler is coming off its most dominating performance of the season and is playing a team that struggles mightily to score. With McPherson not around to torch the Bulldogs, this could be a long night for Valpo against such a vaunted defense. Still, the Crusader’s zone was UWM’s demise, and Butler will need to hit some shots to pull away in this one.

Prediction: Butler 63, Valpo 49.

Your turn: What is your prediction for the game? Will the Crusaders sack and pillage the Bulldogs?