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Nebrasketball: NIT - Butler Preview

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The post season comes to Lincoln, NE

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Butler Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Wednesday, March 20th

Time: 8:00pm CST

Location: Lincoln, NE

TV: ESPN2

Coach: LaVall Jordan (2nd Season)

2018-19 Record: 16-16 (7-11 Big East Conference)

Preview

The Butler Bulldogs, a team who went to the NCAA Tournament Finals two years in a row back in 2010 and 2011, has taken a bit of a downturn this season. While this is Lavall’s second year as head coach, he did manage to get Butler to the second round of the tournament last year before they were defeated by Big Ten brethren Purdue.

Though, they did lose quite a bit of talent from last years team. The biggest being All Big East forward Kelan Martin. Kelan averaged 21.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game for the Bulldogs. A huge contributor to the squad that has gone on to greener pastures.

Also gone is forward Tyler Wideman. He lead the conference in field goal percentage at 62% and was the Big East’s Sportsmanship Award winner for the season. Sportsman Ship Award, big honor. Butler lost the nicest guy in the conference. I can imagine what that hole does to moral. Anyway, both Tyler and Kelan’s contributions have been missed by this years squad.

The Bulldogs ended the year in the Big East Tied for last place with Providence and DePaul. This is the first time they have been dead last in a conference in almost thirty years. This, in a down year for the conference. Many think this is due to changes brought on by the new coaching staff while others blame lackluster recruiting over the past few cycles. Either way, they should be better than they are.

The non conference was a little lackluster with their only notable win over Ole Miss early in the season. Conference was okay with wins over Seton Hall, Creighton, and Georgetown. Other than those three victories it was the Bulldogs fighting over the other lower ranked teams in the conference. I’d write more here but you all have Fred Hoiberg on the brain so whats the point?

Butler is led by Kamar Baldwin at guard. The junior leads the team with 17.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals per game this season. Yes, you read that correctly. Their leading rebounder is a guard. A 6’1” guard to be exact. His exploits were noticed as he earned All Big East Second Team honors this season. He will be the best threat for Nebraska and guys like Watson will be pressuring him all game if they don’t want the game to get out of hand.

The next closest threat for Nebraska will be Paul Jorgensen. The senior guard is averaging 11.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. Both Paul and Kamar will keep the Huskers on their toes in the front court and I would expect them to threaten early and often.

Prediction

This is a home game for Nebraska and that should help Nebraska’s chances. Butler is a decent team, but not great. Their lack of serviceable size will be a boost to Nebraska who does not do to well under the basket. I expect this game to be in the hands of the guards who will determine the ball play and pace of the game.

Butler is in a rebuilding year and their players know it. It looks like they should be a better team next year. Nebraska, on the other had, is playing for it’s life and quite possibly their coach too. I think those factors will be what determines this game along with the rowdy home crowd of Pinnacle Bank Arena. Yes, Amir Harris is still out along with Thomas Allen and now Brady Heiman with a back issue but I still think the Huskers will have the edge.

Even with just five scholarship players and two glorious walk-ons...

University of Nebraska 73 Butler University 68