The #18 Seton Hall Pirates take on the #5 Butler Bulldogs in a Big East battle. The winner of this game takes over sole possession of first place in the conference and remains the lone undefeated team in Big East play. These teams have met 14 times since Butler joined the conference in 2013-14. Butler owns a 9-5 series edge.
- Opening Line: Butler -4.5 (at FanDuel)
- Current Line: Butler -4.5
- O/U: 125.5
- Location: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
- Start Time: 6:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, January 15
- Last Meeting: February 2, 2019: Butler def. Seton Hall 70-68
The Butler Bulldogs have to be one of, if not the biggest surprises of the college basketball season thus far. Despite being picked to finish eighth in the Big East Preseason Poll, they come into this game with a resume worthy of a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs are 15-1 (3-0 conference) with their lone loss coming by one point on #2 Baylor’s home court. They have earned impressive wins over Purdue, Creighton, Minnesota, and Florida. The biggest feather in their cap is a current NET ranking of #2, trailing only Baylor. LaVall Jordan may be the early frontrunner for Coach of the Year honors.
After a disappointing year defensively, the Bulldogs have gotten back to their tough and gritty ways. They enter this game ranked fourth in the country defensively, allowing just 54.4 points per game. Butler is one of the more experienced teams in the conference. Among its top seven scorers are three seniors, three juniors and one sophomore. They are led by one of the best guards in the country, Kamar Baldwin. He and Sean McDermott collectively average 26.4 PPG.
Seton Hall is one of the hottest teams in the country after starting slowly. They have won six straight games since opening the season 6-4 and are currently atop the Big East standings at 4-0. Included in this six-game winning streak are victories over Maryland, Marquette, and Xavier. The Pirates certainly have built-in excuses for some of their head-scratching losses. In back-to-back losses to Iowa State and Rutgers, Seton Hall suffered in-game injuries to its two best players. Sandro Mamukelashvili broke his right wrist against Iowa State and has not played since. Early on in the Rutgers game, leading scorer Myles Powell suffered a concussion that caused him to miss the next two games. Outside of these two losses, no one would fault the Pirates for a three-point defeat to Michigan State and a two-point loss to Oregon.
Powell, one of the most dynamic players in the country, is so important to everything Seton Hall does. If the season ended today, he would have a great argument for National Player of the Year. Powell is averaging 21.5 PPG while shooting 41% from the floor. He will look to snap out of a shooting slump from three-point range, however, as his percentage has dropped to 33.9%. The Pirates do an outstanding job of protecting the rim; their 6.1 blocks per game rank 10th in the country. They hold opponents to just 38.4% shooting, tied for 30th-best in the country.
- Pirates are 5-0 ATS in their last five games following an ATS win.
- Pirates are 5-0 ATS in their last five games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
- Pirates are 21-8 ATS in their last 29 games overall.
- Pirates are 5-2 ATS in their last seven road games.
- Bulldogs are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games following a straight-up win.
- Bulldogs are 6-1 ATS in their last seven games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
- Bulldogs are 4-1 ATS in their last five games overall.
- Bulldogs are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 home games.
- Underdog is 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings.
- The road team is 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings.
If you love tough, smart, experienced, and disciplined teams, this is the perfect matchup for you. The atmosphere at Hinkle Fieldhouse is sure to be electric, as night-in and night-out, it provides one of the best home-court advantages in college basketball. This game will have major implications for who wins the regular-season conference championship. It also features two of the top three contenders for Big East Player of the Year (Markus Howard from Marquette may have something to say about that).
Since Powell has returned from a concussion, Seton Hall has made 58.6% of its two-point shots. The Pirates were good enough to beat a top-10 Maryland team without his services, and they have beaten all but one conference opponent by double digits (an eight-point win at DePaul was the exception). While Baldwin is likely to expend energy on the defensive end chasing Powell, Seton Hall has the luxury of using defensive stopper Quincy McKnight to frustrate Baldwin. In Baldwin’s last two games against Seton Hall, he has shot a combined 13-for-37 (35.1%) from the field. If McKnight and others can stymie Baldwin again, it would go a long way in stealing an impressive road victory.
As impressive as Butler has been to start the year, Seton Hall brings just as much tenacity on the defensive end, with better rim protectors and more offensive firepower. Had the Pirates not had an unfortunate run with the injury bug, they would likely be a top-10 team. Five points are too many to give a team this talented. They are an experienced bunch that will not be intimidated by the Hinkle atmosphere. Look for coach Kevin Willard to throw a lot of different looks at Baldwin and McDermott, forcing other secondary Butler players to beat them. The Pirates have a great chance at an outright upset, but I will take the points regardless.