The Butler Bulldogs take on the top-ranked Indiana Hoosiers in the Boston Scientific Close the Gap Crossroads Classic on Saturday afternoon, with the winner claiming state-wide bragging rights.
Butler has won seven of its first nine games this season, the team's two losses coming against Xavier (62-48) and Illinois (78-61). The Bulldogs have won four straight since the setback to the Fighting Illini, with their most recent win coming at Northwestern last Saturday, 74-65. This game marks Butler's third of the season against a team from the Big Ten Conference, and it will kick off Atlantic 10 Conference action at Saint Joseph's on Jan. 9, 2013. The Bulldogs have won their last five games played at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
As for Indiana, it has won its first nine games of the season to maintain its preseason No. 1 ranking. The Hoosiers have posted double-digit victories each time, and they are coming off a 100-69 rout of Central Connecticut State last weekend, putting the wraps on a four-game homestand in the process. Following this clash, IU will return to Bloomington for three straight before opening Big Ten play at Iowa on Dec. 31. The Hoosiers are 73-19 all-time in Indianapolis, but they've won just two of their last eight games there.
Indiana owns a commanding 37-13 lead in the all-time series with Butler, and the Hoosiers have three of the last four meetings, including a 75-59 decision at home last season.
Butler, which is facing the No. 1 team in the land for just the third time ever and the first since 1980, played just its second true road game of the season the last time out, and controlled the action most of the way as it knocked off Northwestern in Evanston. Andrew Smith led the way for the Bulldogs with a double-double consisting of 24 points and 10 rebounds, while three others finished with double-digit scoring efforts as well. The team as a whole shot 48 percent from the field, while doing an exceptional job at the defensive end in limiting the Wildcats to 32.7 percent field goal efficiency, which included a dismal 7-of-24 showing from 3-point range (.292). For the season, Rotnei Clarke is shooting 45 percent from beyond the arc and he paces the club with 17.3 ppg, while Khyle Marshall (12.1 ppg), Kellen Dunham (11.0 ppg) and Smith (10.4 ppg) are all averaging double figures in the scoring column as well. Butler is a 46.2 percent shooting team that averages 73.4 ppg, while its foes are connecting on 43.2 percent of their total shots in netting 65.2 ppg.
Simply put, Indiana is getting it done at both ends of the court this season as the team averages 89.1 ppg while permitting just 57.4 ppg. The offensive effort ranks the team tops in the country, while its defensive yield ranks seventh. The Hoosiers boast five double-digit scorers, with Wooden Award candidate Cody Zeller (15.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg, .625 FG percentage) leading the way. Zeller had a monster game against Central Connecticut State the last time out, logging a double-double with 19 points and 19 rebounds, while Christian Watford served as the team's high scorer with 21 points on the strength of 8- of-12 shooting, which included three 3-pointers. Victor Oladipo (15 points, nine rebounds), Will Sheehy (12 points, six rebounds) and Jordan Hulls (10 points, five rebounds, four assists) all had productive outings as well for the Hoosiers, who shot 54.2 percent from the floor, which included a 62.9 percent showing in the opening half. The Blue Devils were held to 33.3 percent accuracy on their field goal attempts, and they were badly beaten on the boards (53-31).