Pregame: Butler Bulldogs vs Texas Longhorns
On Thanksgiving day at 7ET Butler takes on Texas in only the second meeting in the history of the two programs (Butler won 56-48 when they met in the 2015 NCAA Tournament). The game is a part of the first round of the Nike PK80 tournament in Portland, Ore.
Butler is coming off of a bounceback win on Nov. 18, against Furman where big man, and birthday boy, Tyler Wideman scored a season high 19 points along with seven rebounds. Sean McDermott, Kamar Baldwin and Paul Jorgenson all had double figure games and shot a collective 10 for 16 from three point land. Freshman guard Aaron Thompson also made his first career start and finished with four assists.
Texas is still undefeated, and has three blowout wins under their belt: most recently a routing of Lipscomb at home where freshman star Mo Bamba finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. Bamba comes to Texas and coach Shaka Smart as the number three recruit in his class. His seven foot, 225 pound, frame makes him a monster in the paint, on both ends of the floor. Through two games, he sat out of Texas’s matchup against New Hampshire because of a concussion, he leads the team with 14 points, nine rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game.
Bamba isn’t the only big man to look out for for Texas though. 6’9” and 245 pound(!) junior Dylan Osetkowski is averaging 11 points and nine rebounds per game for the Longhorns.
Texas’s offense runs through their big men. While two guards, Andrew Jones and Kerwin Roach II, are averaging double figures for the Longhorns this season, neither are dangerous perimeter threats. As a team, Texas is shooting just 27% from long range this season, and no one on the squad has more than five made threes so far. Butler has struggled recently to defend the long ball, allowing Maryland to light them up on 45% shooting from deep for their first loss of the year. While the Bulldogs’ strong interior defense will be tested, they shouldn’t have to worry about being out performed at the three point line.
Taking the ball inside against the likes of Bamba and Osetkowski will not be easy. Luckily, Butler is coming off of their best three point shooting performance of the season. Look for Butler to be aggressive in the paint, but if the shots fall, this game can be won from the outside.
Butler, like Texas, is a young team; both rosters combine for just five seniors. The PK80 is a great experience for both teams, to play big time games against some of the best programs in college basketball. The winner of this game will go on to play the winner of Duke vs Portland St.
Players to Watch-
Mo Bamba is a standout player in college basketball already. The future NBA lottery pick is dominant on defense, his length allows him to block shots and finish above the rim on the other end of the floor. Bamba is definitely a player to watch, because of his value to his team, but also because of his highlight reel potential.
Jacob Young is a sophomore guard who comes off the bench for the Longhorns. Averaging a quiet nine points per game, Young is not an big time threat to Butler in this game, but is the only real shooter on this Texas squad. If anyone is going to beat Butler from the outside, it is this man. Let’s hope that coach Jordan did the scouting report.
Kelan Martin once again leads Butler in both points and rebounds per game, 15 and eight respectively. After finishing the win against Furman with just eight points on 0-5 shooting from deep, look for Martin to bounce back in a big way. Butler will need both his scoring and his rebounding to come away with the win on Turkey day.
Sean McDermott had a huge game against Furman, scoring 17 points on 5-7 three point shooting and dishing out four assists. He also recorded a highlight reel block and grabbed one steal. McDermott has stepped into his starting role nicely so far this year, shooting 44% from three. His, and the rest of Butler’s, perimeter shooting will be key in the matchup with Texas, because not much is getting by Mo Bamba and company in the paint.
Photo credit: Indy Star