Cleveland State Vikings
Record: 21-9 (7-7 away)
Conference: Horizon (12-5)
RPI: No. 77 (vs. Butler No. 20)
Last Five: 4-1
Tip Time: 12 p.m. EST
Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
TV: The Deuce (ESPN 2)
Scoring Margin: +7.6
Rebounding Margin: +0.4
3-Point %: 30.7
TO Margin: +3.8 (1st in HL)
Notes: Cleveland State is finally playing like the team that was picked to win the Horizon League (by those brilliant writers who picked Butler 5th). The Vikings have rattled off eight straight conference wins after stumbling to a 4-5 start. Their success is predicated on forcing turnovers. The Vikes lead the HL in turnovers forced and turnover margin. Earlier this season, Butler’s Zach Hahn “STUCK IT!!” at the buzzer to win at Cleveland State. However, Hahn’s shot was definitely not the biggest shot by a Horizon League team. That would go to Cleveland State’s Cedric Jackson for his three-quarter court buzzer beater at Syracuse (see below).
CSU PG Jackson, Cedric 6’3 190 SR PPG: 9.8, RPG: 5.7, APG: 5.5
Butler PG Nored, Ronald 6’0 170lbs FR PPG: 3.9, RPG: 3.0, APG: 2.8
Besides making the shot of the year, Jackson is one of most complete players in the HL. The tough-minded guard utilizes size, speed, and awareness on both sides of the ball. In fact, Jackson tops the nation in steals (3.00 per game). Offensively, Jackson’s field goal percentage has taken a plunge, but the crafty playmaker leads the HL in assists at 5.5 assists per game. On the other side of the ball, Nored is playing his best ball all season. He still can’t hit a jump shot for his life, but is making plays for others.
Advantage: Cleveland State
CSU G Cole, Norris 6’1 165 lbs SO PPG: 12.3, RPG: 2.7, APG: 2.7
Butler SG Mack, Shelvin 6’3 185lbs FR PPG: 11.8, RPG: 4.0, APG: 3.6
Cole is one of Cleveland State’s best surprises this season. The sophomore guard has raised his scoring average by 7 points from his freshman campaign. He leads the team in 3-point attempts, but makes just 30 percent of his shots. Speaking of 30 percent, that’s what Shelvin Mack has been shooting from the floor in his last nine games. Has he smacked the freshman wall? Maybe. But if he regains his touch, Butler will be tough to beat.
CSU SG Brown, D’Aundray 6’4 180lbs SO PPG: 11.8, RPG: 2.5, APG: 1.4
Butler G Hayward, Gordon 6’8 180lbs FR PPG: 13.9, RPG: 6.4, APG: 2.0
Brown is only 6’4 but makes most of his impact on the boards. I expect Cleveland State coach Gary Waters to play George Tandy off the bench to guard Gordon Hayward, so Brown may not see as many minutes as he’s used to. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if Hayward can finally have a break out game at home. He has yet to score 20 at Hinkle.
CSU F Bullock, J’Nathan 6’5 240lbs SR PPG: 15.7, RPG: 6.8, APG: 1.5
Butler F Veasley, Willie 6’3 190lbs JR PPG: 8.9, RPG: 4.3, APG: 1.3
Bullock is one of the strongest offensive players in the Horizon League. His ability to score inside and out has helped him put up 14-18 points all season. Veasley will need to lock down Bullock like he did to the other HL top scorers.
Advantage: Cleveland State
CSU C Moore, Chris 6’9 225lbs SR PPG: 5.8 RPG: 2.9, APG: 0.5
Butler C Howard, Matt 6’8 220lbs SO PPG: 14.4, RPG: 7.1, APG: 1.2
Liles is a big body, but averages just 2.9 rebounds a game. He’ll have his hands full with Matt Howard, who is one of the frontrunners for the HL POY award that will be announced Monday. If he scores 20 and Butler wins, I think he wins the award.
F Tandy, George 6’8 210lbs SR PPG: 5.7, RPG: 4.9, APG: 0.7
G Harmon, Trevon 6’0 170lbs FR PPG: 5.3, RPG: 1.2, APG: 0.8
F Montgomery, Jeremy 6’2 190lbs FR PPG: 4.1, RPG: 0.8, APG: 1.0
G Hahn, Zach 6’0 170lbs SO PPG: 5.5, RPG: 1.3, APG: 0.8
F Butcher, Garrett 6’7 190lbs FR PPG: 2.6, RPG: 1.6, APG: 0.2
G Vanzant, Shawn 6’1 175lbs SO PPG: 3.9, RPG: 1.7, APG: 1.0
Tandy, an Indianapolis native, had one of his best games of the season in the teams’ first meeting. Butler’s bench got a boost with the return of Avery Jukes, but it is Shawn Vanzant who is really making an impact. If he can knock down a couple 3’s and play is usual knock down defense, Butler might not need Zach Hahn to save the day…again.
Final Analysis: The Butler Ugroup is proclaims it the “Doozy on the Deuce.” Butler wants the conference championship all for themselves. Cleveland State is out to exact some revenge. Expect another hardnosed battle without many points. Butler will win if they establish Matt Howard early and often. Cleveland State can win if Howard is in foul trouble and Bullock has a big night. I like the way the Dawgs scored in transition against Youngstown State and I like the Dawgs in the “Doozy on the Deuce.” See it at noon on ESPN 2.
Prediction: Butler 61, Cleveland State 55
Your thoughts: Let’s hear what you have to say about the game. Will the Horizon League finals be played in Hinkle?