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Game 2: Creighton at Butler Preview

Two teams coming off a win! How cool is that? Not really. Ok, I’ll shut up. Creighton comes to Historic Hinkle Fieldhouse to take on the Butler Bulldogs. Here’s what we learned from the first matchup in Omaha, some key factors, then a pick.

What we Learned from Matchup 1:

Creighton bullied this Butler team. It was a six-point game at halftime, but it felt like it was over. Butler got off to a hot start (via a couple of loose balls bounced right to Butler players, leading to easy buckets), then Creighton went on a run and just took this game over.

This was Creighton’s first game with Kalkbrenner back, and it really showed this is a completely different team with him in. Butler went up 16-7 early, and after that point, Creighton won 71-40. So after the quick start, this game was not competitive. Kalkbrenner seemingly had everything we wanted and looked nearly 100%, and Baylor Scheierman just had one of those games where he was unstoppable.

It was a very good showing for Creighton which proved that they’re legit and was a sign of things to come for this Butler squad.

Since that Game?

Creighton is 3-2 in conference play, with losses on the road against UConn and Xavier. Yeah, not going to blame you much for those two. Their wins are home to DePaul, Seton Hall and a big win over Providence this weekend. I thought they looked excellent in these three games. Especially the Providence game. Except for a huge Bryce Hopkins run, I thought Creighton controlled just about this entire game.

They overcame a pretty bad shooting day from Ryan Nembhard and had huge games from Kalkbrenner, Alexander and Scheierman. Both Kalkbrenner and Alexander were able to get to the line 11 times and made Providence pay.

Butler is 3-3, with wins over DePaul, Villanova and Georgetown, and losses at home to Providence and on the road vs Seton Hall and St. John’s. The losses have all been blowouts, Butler seemingly gives in after they get down big. Their last game against Villanova was perhaps their best showing, at least in the first half. The Georgetown game was domination, but that’s also Georgetown.

The first half of the Villanova game was the best the offense has looked, since the Georgetown game. This isn’t a particularly good Nova defense, but still, multiple guys were driving to the hoop and making the right decisions. They scored 1.33 points per possession, shot 17/29 from the field and had 24 points in the paint (10 in half two) with only two turnovers.

Ok, to today’s game

No Manny Bates

Manny Bates is probably out for a little while. How does Butler move on? Especially in this matchup, how does Butler try to guard Ryan Kalkbrenner? He played very well in game one, and without Manny Bates could be looking toward an even better performance in this game. Jalen Thomas got the start and freshman Connor Turnbull got some minutes. Can these bigs match up with Kalkbrenner?

For Creighton, I’d expect them to attack the rim relentlessly in this one. Playing inside out should open up the three-point looks, but when you have guys who can get to the lane as Creighton does (all Creighton starters are effective three-level scorers), I’d expect them to try to take advantage of Butler’s lacking interior presence.

Jalen Thomas was a very good rim protector during his time at Georgia State. He anchored their high-paced, pressure-intensive defense. It’s a little different going against this lethal Creighton offense, so how will he fare? And what does Butler do when he goes out? Does Butler let the freshman Turnbull try his hand at the Kalkbrenner matchup?

Butler also isn’t a very good rebounding team, with Bates. They don’t attack the glass particularly well. Butler ranks 198 in defensive rebounding rate, 331 in offensive rebounding rate, good for 266 in total rebounding rate. By comparison, Creighton ranks 36 in defensive rebounding rate, 265 in offensive rebounding rate, and 113 in total rebounding rate. So they don’t attack the offensive glass much, but they will clean up any shot that you miss. Is this a matchup where Creighton can destroy Butler on the glass?

Smart Basketball

Creighton isn’t a team that makes a ton of mistakes. They’re excellent defensively, they will force you into some really tough shots. Their three-point against rate is 30.2%, ranking 17 best in the country, and second best in the conference. Teams don’t get many open looks from deep against them. Their assist-to-turnover rate is 1.385, tied for 29 in the country. They also don’t foul, they rank fourth in the country in the fewest fouls per game. They move the ball very well, play very disciplined defense and make opponents take tough shots.

On the other side, they don’t force you into many turnovers, they will let you run your offense and won’t gamble for steals. They know that if they can stay solid and stay in front of you, it’ll be hard to score. Worst case scenario, you get by someone, you’re going to have to score over the reigning Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Ryan Kalkbrenner, so good luck.

Creighton really tries to force you to beat their guys one-on-one and make you beat them that way, which is a trap Butler would have to avoid. In the first game, Butler had only 8 assists on 24 made field goals. One-on-one, dribble at the top of the key, iso-ball is a trap that Butler has fallen into often, and if they want to win in Hinkle, they will have to play as a unit.

Butler has been solid defensively, as in they average the fewest fouls in the country. Butler will force teams to take some tough shots and are a pretty solid defensive team, giving up most of their buckets inside the arc.

However, they are also the worst 2-point offense in the Big East, only shooting 45% inside the arc. Against a rim-protector like Kalkbrenner, Butler will struggle to get buckets inside the arc, as they have all season.

Creighton is a very smart team. If they can force Butler into playing their game, Creighton could roll here. Butler will have to keep the ball moving and share the sugar, especially in this matchup. If not, you play right into Creighton’s hands, they’ll get out and run off of your misses, and get easy buckets. This is a very good Creighton team, and they play a very disciplined game, too.

Bench Minutes:

Both of these teams have one thing in common, neither really likes to use their bench. Well, they have more than that in common but you get the idea. Both teams rank inside the bottom twenty nationally in bench minutes. Creighton ranks 344 with 22.6% of their minutes coming from their bench, while Butler ranks 359 with 19.9% of their minutes coming off of the bench.

Despite both teams getting healthier come conference play, this hasn’t changed much. The starters still play a ton of minutes on both teams and will be run into the ground. But, if one of these teams can have a lift off of the bench, that could completely change this game.

Whether it’s just some new energy, a calming PG presence, a momentum switch, or someone that can get a couple of buckets, some bench minutes could really change this game. In game one, Creighton was able to get 9 points and 5 boards off of the bench from Fred King, and that really propelled them on their huge run. Butler has been running Jayden Taylor off of the bench lately, and he averaged 20PPG in their wins over both DePaul and Georgetown.

Both of these teams will run their starters a ton, you will more than likely see the same ten guys on the floor most of the time, but if either team can get some momentum off of the bench, it can spark a run and really change the complexity and flow of the game. With both teams so dependent on their starters, some new energy to liven things up would go a long way to securing a victory. You can also give a starter some much-deserved rest, so they are fueled to take over late in the game if it’s close.


In the last matchup, Creighton absolutely manhandled Butler. Creighton isn’t the team I expect to just out-physical someone, but now that has to be acknowledged and respected. This Butler team has folded this season, but when the going got tough in their last game, they pulled through.

Granted, this is a very small sample size (against some really good teams, and without their best player), but Creighton’s home-road splits are pretty staggering. They are much better at home. And if Hinkle Fieldhouse gets as loud as it did last game, this one could be very tough for the visiting Blue Jays.

In turn, Butler has been a team that gives up when they get punched. And with how Creighton defends, Butler doesn’t have the guys who can score these one-on-one matchups. Creighton was able to dictate the tempo in the first matchup and I don’t think Butler will really want to slow it down in this one, especially without Manny Bates. I think that plays in Creighton’s favor.

Ryan Kalkbrenner is already a matchup nightmare and for this game, it probably only gets worse. Jalen Thomas will have his hands full.

I don’t love this game on either side. I could see both teams winning, the only outcome I can’t see is a Butler blowout, though that’s exactly what happened last year in Hinkle Fieldhouse. This game feels like one that is very close, though Butler hasn’t lost a close game all season, because they just give in. How do I know that won’t happen today?

In the end, I think Creighton will be too much and is just too talented, especially when fully healthy.

Final Score: 76-71 Creighton


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