The No. 18 Butler Bulldogs will put their undefeated record on the line as they continue their challenging non-conference schedule Tuesday night with a road game against the No. 11 Baylor Bears. Baylor is listed as a five-point favorite at home with an over/under of 130.5 points.
The Bulldogs have had no problem challenging themselves in the lead-up to the Big East part of their schedule. They enter Tuesday’s game at 9-0, including five wins against power-conference teams. Butler has taken care of business against the likes of Minnesota, Missouri, Stanford, Ole Miss, and Florida. Of course, Baylor will be the first ranked team the Bulldogs face this season.
The Bears suffered a neutral-site loss to Washington in their second game of the season, but they’ve been red-hot ever since. Baylor won the Myrtle Beach Invitational last month, knocking off Villanova in the tournament final. Over the weekend, the Bears improved to 7-1 on the season by edging out a ranked Arizona team at home. With Butler coming to Waco, Baylor has a chance to beat its third ranked team in its last four games.
Butler vs. Butler
Things could get a little confusing because Baylor’s best player is actually Jared Butler. The sophomore guard will be facing his namesake school. He’s coming off a rough shooting performance against Arizona over the weekend, managing just 13 points. However, he’s averaging over 18 points per game on the season while shooting 47 percent from three-point range. Baylor also has a good Plan B in MaCio Teague, who averages better than 15 points per game and is also one of the team’s best rebounders.
Of course, those two could be facing their biggest challenge of the season, as Butler is one of the toughest defensive teams in the country. The Bulldogs give up 56 points per game, and given the number of power-conference teams they’ve played early in the year, that stat isn’t the least bit exaggerated by an easy schedule.
Spread the Wealth
One of the biggest strengths for the Bulldogs this year has been a balanced offensive attack. Senior shooting guard Kamar Baldwin leads the way with close to 17 points per game. However, the Butler frontcourt has a pair of capable scorers as well in Bryce Nze and Sean McDermott, who are both averaging 11 points per game on the season.
Meanwhile, the straw that stirs the drink is point guard Aaron Thompson. The junior is only the sixth-leading scorer on Butler’s roster, but he leads the Bulldogs in minutes played and (more importantly) assists, dishing out more than six per game compared to just two turnovers. He runs the show, and stopping the Bulldogs means having to stop him.
Keep It Close
While the Baylor offense can be explosive behind Butler and Teague, both players had their struggles from the perimeter against a solid Arizona defense. The Bulldogs will be just as challenging to face on the defensive end of the floor, so don’t expect Baylor to light up the scoreboard. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have a great floor general in Thompson and several capable scorers who can help keep this game close. Bet on Butler to beat the five-point spread against Baylor, even if the Bears escape with the win.