(18) Butler (9-2) at Vanderbilt (5-5)
Saturday December 29, 8 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Memorial Gym (14,316) -- Nashville, Tennessee. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Butler 5-0, Vanderbilt 3-1. Away Record: Butler 1-1, Vanderbilt 1-1. Neutral Record: Butler 3-1, Vanderbilt 1-3. Conference Record: Butler 0-0, Vanderbilt 0-0. Series Record: Butler leads, 3-0. .
GAME NOTES: The 18th-ranked Butler Bulldogs will look to extend their six-game winning streak as they venture to Memorial Gym for a non-conference tilt with the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Brad Stevens and his Bulldogs have been on a roll lately with wins over Northwestern (74-65), Indiana (88-86 OT), and Evansville (75-67) in their last three appearances. The team's current six-game winning streak improved its overall record to 9-2, but it is just 1-1 on the road so far thanks to its early season loss at Xavier (62-47). Butler has been excellent versus opponents from top tier leagues with a 4-1 mark versus BCS conferences, the only setback coming to Illinois in the Maui Invitational championship game. The Bulldogs are decent on the offensive end with 74.9 points per game on 46.6 percent shooting from the floor, and they are limiting their foes to 67.3 ppg with makes on 42.9 percent of their field goal attempts.
Vandy had its three-game winning streak snapped by a 56-52 loss to Middle Tennessee on Dec. 21, which dropped it to 5-5 on the season. Coach Kevin Stallings has his unit playing much better since its 1-3 start and it has since managed to defeat a pair of notable opponents in Texas-El Paso (73-49) and Xavier (66-64 OT). The Commodores are a much weaker team offensively this season after losing three players to the NBA as their scoring offense average is just 60.3 ppg. They are managing to win games due to a very tough defensive effort that has limited opponents to 59.6 ppg, which is the fourth lowest average among SEC schools.
The Bulldogs and Commodores have played three times before, and Butler has been the victor in each previous meeting. The series has been idle since the 1929-30 season.
Butler used its inside-outside combination of Andrew Smith and Rotnei Clarke to down Evansville last time out. Both players scored 20 points, while Kellen Durham and Roosevelt Jones scored 13 and 12 points, respectively. Kameron Woods also made a solid contribution with 10 points and a game-high 12 boards, which helped the Bulldogs hold a 39-29 edge in the rebounding battle. Butler was exceptionally productive at the charity stripe in the contest as it converted 23-of-27 free throw attempts. Clarke, a 6-0 senior guard, is pacing the squad with 17.7 ppg and Smith is making an impact in the paint with 11.5 points and 5.0 boards per outing.
The Commodores were not able to take down Middle Tennessee in their last appearance despite a 25-point showing on 9-of-19 shooting by Kedren Johnson. The rest of the team made a combined total of nine field goals in the loss. Vandy struggled overall as it committed 18 turnovers and pulled down 25 rebounds to the Blue Raiders' 34 boards. Johnson is leading Vandy in scoring with 17.8 ppg and Kyle Fuller is chipping in 12.5 ppg. Freshman guard Kevin Bright has shown the ability to be a big time contributor as he recorded back- to-back double-doubles versus Villanova (12 points, 12 rebounds) and Xavier (11 points, 10 rebounds), but he has been held to less than 10 points and rebounds in each of his last three games.
Vanderbilt's victory over Xavier, one of the two squads to beat Butler this season, indicates these teams may not be too far apart in terms of talent. However, the Commodores will need their role players to provide scoring support for Johnson who will find it nearly impossible to engineer the upset on his own. The Bulldogs, who have averaged 81 points per game over their last four, are going to be incredibly difficult to defeat if they continue to find success on the offensive end.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Butler 75, Vanderbilt 66
12/29 10:31:31 ET