Record: 12-7 (3-5 away)
Conference: Horizon (7-2)
RPI: No. 104 (vs. Butler #9)
Sagarin’s: No. 106 (vs. Butler #15)
Best Wins: Bradley (W 86-74), Cleveland State (W 77-75)
Notable Losses: Ball State (L 82-69), Green Bay (L 77-75 OT)
Notes: Four years ago Wisconsin-Milwaukee was the cream of the crop in the Horizon League, winning three of four league championships between 2003-2006 and making a Sweet 16 appearance. This year, behind a mix of veterans and newcomers, the Panthers are back again in contention for the league lead. They are coming off an ugly 63-51 defeat at Valparaiso on Thursday in which the team went 12 minutes without a point and three starters went scoreless the entire game. In general, though, the Panthers get it done on the offensive end, just barely trailing Green Bay for top scoring team at 70.6 points per game. Milwaukee is 11-0 when shooting 40% or better. On defense, they defend the three-pointer better than any team in the Horizon, only allowing opponents to shoot a meager 29.6% (almost identical to what Butler shot against UIC).
Scoring Margin: +2.9
Rebounding margin: -0.7
Turnover ratio: -0.6
3-Point %: 36.3
UWM PG Franklin, Ricky 6’1 200lbs SR
PPG: 7.1, RPG: 4.2, APG: 2.7
Butler PG Nored, Ronald 6’0 170lbs FR
PPG: 3.5, RPG: 2.0, APG: 2.6
Franklin is one of the leaders on the team, but lately has been playing quite poorly. He has only scored in double figures once during league play, and brings a two game scoring drought into Saturday’s game. Nored, on the other hand, ended his two game scoreless drought with a three pointer from the corner in the second half of the Green Bay game. His defense looked a little sluggish though, as GB’s Rahmon Fletcher tore him up in route to a 22-point performance.
UWM SG Boyle, Tone 6’2 175lbs JR
PPG: 14.8, RPG: 3.8, APG: 1.4
Butler SG Mack, Shelvin 6’3 185lbs FR
PPG: 13.0, RPG: 3.8, APG: 3.9
Boyle is third in the Horizon in 3-pt attempts, with over 6 per game. He has a good inside out game, and leads Milwaukee in FT attempts as well. He has turned it on in conference play, scoring in double figures in every game including 15 against Valpo on Thursday (though he took 17 shots to do so). After a slow start Thursday, Mack Attack was back at it again. He has had 8 assists in each of the past two games. Stevens has started to use him as the point guard when Hahn steps in at the 2.
UWM G Smith, Avery 6’3 195lbs SR
PPG: 13.0, RPG: 4.5, APG: 2.8
Butler G Hayward, Gordon 6’8 180lbs FR
PPG: 13.1, RPG: 6.6, APG: 1.9
Smith has cooled off considerably since a five game streak over Christmas break in which he averaged 21.4 points per game. He was held scoreless on Thursday, bringing his average since then to a meager 6.5 per game. The Panthers need him to regain his shot if they are going to make a run at the title. Words cannot express the way Hayward posterized Ryan Tillema on Thursday with his baseline drive and slam dunk. His confidence is increasing game by game. This kid could be scary good by the time he finishes his career at Butler.
UWM F Meier, Tony 6’8 210lbs FR
PPG: 6.9, RPG: 4.0, APG: 0.8
Butler F Veasley, Willie 6’3 190lbs JR
PPG: 8.6, RPG: 4.1, APG: 1.3
Meier is a lanky freshman built very similarly to Gordon Hayward. He plays a similar game as well, although the main difference is that Hayward is simply a lot better. Expect to see those two match up and Veasley slide over to defend one of the guards. As for Veasley, make it two straight games where he has had 3 fouls by halftime. Also make it two straight in which he has played almost the entire second half without drawing another foul. He is the glue that keeps this team together. Expect whomever he guards, whether it is Boyle or Smith, to struggle all night.
UWM C Hill, Anthony 6’7 230lbs SO
PPG: 8.1, RPG: 4.9, APG: 0.5
Butler C Howard, Matt 6’8 220lbs SO
PPG: 13.9, RPG: 6.7, APG: 1.1
While Hill is the starter, 310-lb James “Lumber” Eayrs will probably see more minutes as the primary big man. Hill struggles offensively, but is a good defender and only averages 1 foul every 8.5 minutes. He will struggle to maintain this pace against Howard, one of the best in the league at drawing fouls. Howard, meanwhile, rebounded from his poor game at UIC with 15 points and 8 boards against Green Bay. He will have his hands full on Saturday though with the duo of “Lumber” and Hill.
C Eayrs, James 6’7 310lbs JR PPG: 9.5, RPG: 4.7, APG: 0.8
G Roberts, Deonte 6’3 190lbs SO PPG: 5.7, RPG: 3.3, APG: 1.6
G James, Deion 6’2 190lbs SR PPG: 3.8, RPG: 1.9, APG: 0.5
G Hahn, Zach 6’0 170lbs SO PPG: 5.1, RPG: 1.7, APG: 0.9
F Jukes, Avery 6’8 215lbs JR PPG: 4.2, RPG: 2.1, APG: 0.3
G Vanzant, Shawn 6’1 175lbs SO PPG: 3.2, RPG: 1.8, APG: 1.1
Eayrs averaged 17.7 points and 10.0 rebounds in three games last week to earn Horizon League Player of the Week and was one the few players to show up against Valpo scoring 14 points. His size will be something Butler will struggle to contain. James had 13 points last year when Milwaukee visited Butler, although his numbers have been at an all time low this season. Roberts is the only other player who should see significant time, as he runs the point. He is not a threat from outside (only 3 career three-point attempts) but his is quick and consistently gets inside for layups or to dish off to Hill or Eayrs under the basket. For Butler, the bench was back again, contributing 16 points against Green Bay. Zach Hahn made a couple of big three-pointers in the first half to keep the game close. Consistency, night in and night out, is something Butler needs from its bench going into tournament time.
Final Analysis: This has the makings of another close game. Will the Bulldogs finally be able to hit their shots in a Saturday game? Will Milwaukee’s shooters lay some more bricks in the state of Indiana? Either way, one thing is for certain. We will see a lot, and I mean A LOT, of three point attempts. My guess is the shots will not fall as frequently as both team’s fans will hope. In that case, Butler’s ability to win the turnover battle and to get to the free throw line should help them prevail.
Prediction: Butler 64, Milwaukee 60.
What are your thoughts? Will Milwaukee come out with a vengeance after being embarrassed against one of the Horizon’s worst teams? Can the Bulldogs make it 2 for 2 against Wisconsin teams? Will there be more 3 point attempts than 2 point attempts (I think this one is a no brainer)?