Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
Northwestern hosts Butler, although it's a different team than the one that made the NCAA title game a few years back. Wildcats vs. Bulldogs also provides a sweet mascot preview of the Gator Bowl.
Butler! Everybody's favorite underdog mid-major from two years ago isn't your favorite mid-major when you have to play them. They handled Northwestern a few years back in two games, and should travel well to Evanston. A win against a name team looks good, so hopefully Northwestern can take their momentum from the Baylor game and continue into another game against a B----r squad.
This matchup also should give us a nice look into how Northwestern's Wildcats-Bulldogs bowl game should go, as we have the same mascots representing Saturday.
Take it away, Boldface Questions Guy!
So, these are like, the same dudes who went to the national title game, right?: Not exactly. From the team that played in the 2010 National Championship game against UConn, aka BUTLER'S UNDERDOG STORY ENDING IN A DISAPPOINTING WAY 2: CLANGLECTRIC BOOGALOO, there's only two players left: Chase Stigall, who was second on the team in scoring with nine points but now averages just 2.3 a game and isn't that important, and Khyle Marshall, who was a non-factor then and is a major factor now as the team's bulldoggy inside scorer. This team actually didn't make the NCAA Tournament last year, as DEEEEEETROIIIIIT BASKETBALL got the Horizon League autobid after Valpo trounced Butler, who was a 5-seed.
Are they good?: Good enough. Like Baylor, I've seen this team a few times, including both of their losses. They have the one marquee win over No. 9 North Carolina, which looks pretty. And they beat Marquette, although that did come on Rotnei Clarke's one-handed 35-footer at the buzzer. But there's also those two ugly losses, games against Xavier and Illinois where they were just creamed. Illinois was understandable - they were hot, they're undefeated - but when Clarke was nowhere to be found against Xavier, there was no offense.
What are they good at?: Well, that there boy Rotnei can shoot. The Arkansas transfer's conscience is off pushing daisies, but he shoots 43 percent, so that's good. Like I said, Khyle Marshall's a nice interior scorer, and center Andrew Smith knocks down j's with regularity, but isn't the down low post presence NU fears. They're not a great team defensively, although they force a lot of steals, and between Marshall and Smith, they grab defensive rebounds. They mainly make their name on getting shots on the rim, turning the ball over next-to-never and letting the hotness of Clarke's hands determine how the game goes. Against NC, it was going. Against Xavier, it wasn't.
Us and them: NU played Butler back in 2008 and 2009, losing both. Both teams had Gordon Hayward, Matt Howard, and Shelvin Mack, and we didn't realize they were the eventual runners-up despite their top-10 ranking in 2009. The '08 game was close, thanks to 11 points by Ivan Peljusic - ! - but the '09 one was a 13-point win for Butler, I remember being impressed with Hayward, which was a good call.
Butlers power ranking: 1.Geoffrey from The Fresh Prince
3. Alfred Pennyworth
4. Butler University
Infantile joke companion: More like BUTTler, amirite
Two Horizon League teams in a week, huh?: Actually, Butler's now in the A-10. Conference realignment, crazy! Except the A-10 has always had like 16 teams and is kinda stacked this year.
Can NU win?: Kenpom thinks so, in a close one. But it'll be tough.
How?: Reggie Hearn, in Rotnei Clarke's grill, all day every day. He'll still take shots and make shots, but with a hand up he won't be as effective. Northwestern hasn't been good at selling out on shooters this year, and I feel Pierre Jackson's poor performance from beyond the arc was more due to the luck of the draw than great D. Something we've learned early about Northwestern is that when shots are falling, they look very good, and when they're not, they can lose to anybody. Let's hope the cold shooting from the Maryland and UIC losses is gone for good.