BUTLER (13-18, #9 SEED) VS. XAVIER (18-12, #8 SEED) — BIG EAST TOURNAMENT FIRST ROUND
Wednesday, March 9; 4:30PM
Madison Square Garden; New York City
TV: FS1 – Tim Brando & Bill Raftery
Radio: 1430AM – @MarkMinner & Nick Gardner (@n_gardner)
Varsity Network Radio App
Full Notes (PDF) — https://bit.ly/3F4viOr
Butler travels to New York City for the 2022 BIG EAST Tournament. The Bulldogs are the No. 9 seed and will open play with a first round match-up Wednesday against eighth-seeded Xavier. The winner of Wednesday’s match-up will face No. 1 seed Providence in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
THE SERIES: Xavier owns a 45-24 advantage in the all-time series between the programs, which has seen match-ups as conference foes in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, a single season in the Atlantic 10 and since the 2013-14 season as members of the BIG EAST.
Xavier won the two regular season games this season. The teams also met in the 2021 BIG EAST Tournament first round with the Bulldogs pulling out a 70-69 overtime win.
Xavier Leads, 45-24
Streak: Xavier, W2
On Neutral Court: Xavier Leads, 4-2
LaVall Jordan (at BU) vs. Xavier: 4-7
First Meeting: Xavier, 28-26; 1/16/37 (at XU)
Last Meeting: Xavier, 68-66; 2/2/22 (at XU)
• This is the second consecutive BIG EAST Tournament that has featured a first round match-up between Butler and Xavier.
• Butler overcame a 19-point deficit to win 70-69 in overtime over Xavier in the 2021 BIG EAST Tournament; Chuck Harris led Butler with 21 points (all after halftime).
• According to KenPom, Butler played the 12th-toughest regular season schedule in the nation.
• Fifteen of Butler’s games this season have come against teams currently ranked in the Top 40 of the NCAA NET metric.
• Butler has had five different leading scorers over the team’s last six games; eight different Bulldogs have led the team in scoring this season.
• Bryce Nze enters the BIG EAST Tournament with 983 career rebounds.
• Nze averaged 20.0 points per game in the 2021 BIG EAST Tournament.
• Aaron Thompson averaged 16.0 points per game in Butler’s two match-ups with Xavier during the regular season; his 20 points vs. the Musketeers Jan. 7 were a season-high and one off his career-best output.
• Thompson is Butler’s leader in career assists; he broke Thomas Jackson’s record (540) Feb. 12 vs. Marquette.
• Thompson (154) is now ninth on Butler’s career steals list.
• Nze is averaging 10.0 rebounds per game over his last three games, which includes two double-doubles.
• Bryce Golden plans to utilize his “COVID redshirt season” and return in 2022-23.
• Bo Hodges is averaging 13.2 points and 7.2 rebounds in his 11 starts this season.
• The 25 points by Hodges Feb. 23 at Seton Hall were his high in a Butler uniform and the second-most by a Bulldog in a game this season.
• All six of Simas Lukosius’s double-digit scoring games have come against BIG EAST opponents and the Bulldogs are 5-1 in those games.
• Lukosius has made 39 of his last 41 free throw attempts and is shooting 89 percent from the charity stripe on the season.
• Jair Bolden (ankle) missed the regular season finale vs. Villanova Saturday.
MATCH-UP NUMBER 2: A late charge by the Bulldogs came up just short as No. 21 Xavier came away with a 68-66 win over Butler Feb. 2 at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati.
Sixteen of Zach Freemantle’s game-high 23 points came in the second half for Xavier.
After Xavier took its largest of the game at 49-34, the Bulldogs would climb back in the contest with a 7-0 lead that brought Butler within 60-53 with 4:45 remaining. The Bulldogs continued to climb closer on a Jayden Taylor three-point play with 56 seconds to play. That made the separation 65-61. The teams traded successful possessions but the margin never got closer than four until Taylor’s meaningless three-pointer went in at the buzzer.
Xavier led 29-26 at the half and then used a 14-2 spurt early in the second half to take a 43-30 advantage with 13:33 remaining.
Taylor and Chuck Harris led the Bulldogs with 18 points apiece. The Bulldogs shot 44 percent from the field and committed only 11 turnovers, but two technical fouls contributed to the final score. Taylor’s 18 points tied his third-best scoring output of the season.
Freemantle was the only Musketeer in double figures. The home team shot 46 percent and had only eight miscues. Forty of Xavier’s points came in the paint.
Aaron Thompson added 12 points for the Bulldogs before fouling out with 3:15 to play and Xavier leading by nine.
MATCH-UP NUMBER 1: In a game that saw both teams shoot 50 percent or better from the field, No. 22 Xavier topped Butler, 87-72, Jan. 7 at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Adam Kunkel led the Musketeers with 25 points, including 4-of-8 from three-point range.
Xavier went 10-of-22 from three-point range and shot 55 percent overall from the field for the game. The Musketeers hit six of their first nine attempts from behind the arc on their way to a 29-17 lead with 6:55 remaining in the first half. Xavier led 42-31 at the half.
Aaron Thompson’s driving layup pulled Butler within 62-55 with 8:47 to play before Kunkel grabbed a loose offensive rebound and hit a three-pointer to return the game to double figures.
Thompson (20) and Bryce Golden (19) each finished the game one shy of their respective career-highs. The duo combined for 39 of the team’s 72 points.
TOUGH SLATE: In addition to a true round-robin format that has Butler playing all 10 BIG EAST foes both on the road and at home, the Bulldogs challenged themselves significantly with this season’s non-conference schedule.
Butler’s non-conference opponents includes No. 9 Purdue — Crossroads Classic, No. 18 Houston — Maui Invitational in Las Vegas, and Michigan State — Gavitt Games.
TWO TIMES FOR THE FIRST YEAR: Simas Lukosius was named the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week Jan. 31 following an impressive 2-0 week for the Bulldogs. This is the second weekly conference honor for the Lithuanian, who also was recognized on Jan. 3.
Lukosius averaged 13.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per game in the team’s two contests. In the Jan. 26 win over Creighton, Lukosius scored 14 points and went 6-for-6 from the free throw line. He was the team’s leading scorer in the Jan. 29 win over Georgetown, recording 13 points. He shot 45 percent from three-point range in the team’s two games.
QUITE THE BATTLE: As part of the annual BIG EAST-Big 12 Battle, the Bulldogs picked up a 66-62 overtime road win Dec. 7 at Oklahoma. Chuck Harris led the Bulldogs with 26 points. Butler trailed by 10 points at the half and by 13 early in the second half before clawing all the way back. After Oklahoma forced overtime with a three-pointer with two seconds remaining in regulation, the Sooners took a 62-58 lead in overtime before Butler scored the game’s final eight points.
ON THE WAY: Connor Turnbull, a 6-10 forward/center from Missouri, has signed a national letter of intent to join the Bulldogs beginning with the 2022-23 season.
Turnbull, from Saint Paul, Mo., stars for Fort Zumwalt North High School, where he earned Missouri Basketball Coaches Association All-State honors for Class 6. As a junior, Turnbull averaged 14.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.0 blocks per game, leading the team to a 27-4 record and the Class 6 state semifinals. He shot 34 percent from three-point range. Turnbull helped Brad Beal Elite to a runner-up finish at the 2021 Peach Jam as part of the Nike EYBL circuit.
BULLDOGS ANNOUNCED AS PART OF 2022 BATTLE 4 ATLANTIS FIELD: The Bulldogs will participate in the Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis for the third time as the 2022 bracket has been announced. Celebrating its 11th year of elite collegiate tournament play, the 2022 field will include Butler, BYU, Dayton, Kansas, North Carolina State, USC, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Butler was previously part of the Battle 4 Atlantis field in both 2014 and 2018. The Bulldogs went 2-1 in each event.