The No. 22 Butler Bulldogs will play the Missouri State Bears in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Below is the Butler vs. Missouri State prediction and game preview.
Butler vs. Missouri State Game Preview
Date: Thursday, Nov. 19
Game Time: 2 p.m. ET
Venue: Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Why You Need To Care
In the two full seasons Butler has gone through since Brad Stevens took off to coach the Boston Celtics, the Bulldogs haven’t exactly thrived. They’ve gone 37-28 during that time and have a third-round exit in last year’s tournament to show for it. It’s Chris Holtmann’s show now, and he’s looking to take the program back to the spotlight. It was only five years ago Butler appeared in its second straight national championship game.
The Bulldogs return their top-three scorers from last season: Kellen Dunham (16.5 ppg), Roosevelt Jones (12.7 ppg) and Andrew Chrabascz (11.2 ppg). And all three lit it up against Citadel in the season-opening, 144-71 win. The trio combined for 54 points, with Dunham giving the biggest contribution (24 points)
Missouri State is trying to find new life after losing its top scorer from last year, Marcus Marshall, who transferred to Nevada. Marshall averaged 19.5 points per game for the Bears and shot 49.5 percent from the field.
Fifth-year head coach Paul Lusk is going to try and dig out a win against a tough Bulldogs team.
Why Butler Will Win
Butler has flourished into a much bigger program than it was five years ago, even though that’s the last time it made a deep run into the tournament. And if the opening win against Citadel was any indication, the Bulldogs are going to be prolific on offense this season. They’ll surely slow down at some point — sooner or later — but shooting 63.6 percent from the field like they did in the first game can flat-out bury Missouri State. Butler also sunk 24-of-33 from the free throw line, which doesn’t bode well for a Bears team that surrendered 591 free throw attempts last season and put Oral Roberts on the line to convert 24-of-32 free throws in their first game.
Why Missouri State Will Win
How does Missouri State win this game? This is another one of those easier-said-than-done scenarios. The Bears have to get hands up in the faces of Dunham, Jones and sophomore Jackson Davis, who went 8-of-11 from the field last game. If the Bears can stick to their assignments and force the Bulldogs to take contested jump shots, they will have chances to pick up some transition points. The Bears will also have to control the boards. They racked up 294 offensive rebounds last season, but they’ll have to really crash the boards to make a big difference in this one. Get a hand up, box out, and Missouri State can make it interesting.
Players Who Matter
Butler’s interior offense depends on both Jones and Davis to dominate the opposition down low, but Jones is the better rebounder of the two. The Bulldogs look good when Jones is cleaning glass. He picked up his first double-double of the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds. But Dunham is going to be the focal point of the Bulldogs offense in this one. The senior guard has a heat-seeking jump shot and has led Butler to a 13-7 record when he scores at least 20 points.
For Missouri State, sophomore forward Chris Kendrix had an efficient scoring performance against Oral Roberts, but it wasn’t glamorous by any means — 13 points on 3-of-5 shooting. Kendrix also was just one of a few who got into foul trouble. If he can stay in the game and get quality looks, the Bears won’t get destroyed. Jordan Martin and Loomis Gerring also need to stay off the bench, they both fouled out last game and combined for 21 points. If all three can avoid ticky-tack fouls and find a rhythm, things could get interesting.
What’s Going To Happen?
Butler will improve to 2-0 on the season. Dunham will have another big night finding the bottom of the nylon and go for at least 20 points to bump the Bulldogs to 14-7 when he does so. Butler will get to the line early and often with a game plan wrapped around attacking the basket and Dunham providing some extra offense from the outside. The Bears will struggle to find a go-to scorer and lose out on the boards. If Missouri State ever leads in this game, it’ll be very, very early on.
Butler vs. Missouri State Prediction
Line: Butler -16.5, o/u: 145.5