Game Preview: #21 Butler vs Wright State
Wright State Raiders
Record: 8-7 (1-5 road)
Conference: Horizon (2-2)
RPI: No. 186 (vs. Butler #3)
Sagarin’s: No. 119 (vs. Butler #12)
Best Wins: Cleveland State (W 72-61), South Florida (W60-43)
Notable Losses: @Wake Forest (L 66-53), Illinois State (L 69-61)
Notes: Wright State looked like a team far removed from its 2006-2007 NCAA Tournament team when it opened the season losing 6 straight games. Since then, however, the Raiders have been the complete opposite winning 8 of 9, including their last 6 games, all of which were played at home or on neutral sites. Last week they beat Cleveland State, 71-62, in a game that was as close as 2 points with less than a minute left. Most recently they came back from a double-digit halftime deficit to knock off Youngstown State 60-59. This team is gaining confidence with each win they eke out and are looking to make noise down the stretch. Defense is the key, as they are second in the league, giving up 56.7 points per game compared to Butler’s 57.2. Offense, on the other hand, is a bit more of a struggle as they are second to last at 58.1 (Butler 69.4) and rank dead last in both FG percentage (39.9%) and 3-point percentage (24.7%). As for the team itself, the Raiders are anxiously awaiting a game-time decision on whether star guard Vaughn Duggins will be playing in Thursday’s game. Duggins broke his ring finger at a Thanksgiving Day practice and has been slow to recover. While Duggins has not been in the lineup during any Wright State victories this year, his presence on the court would clearly give Raiders fans a boost of confidence.
Rebounding margin: -2.4
Turnover ratio: +2.6
Wright State PG Gardner, John David 6’4 190lbs JR
PPG: 9.3, RPG: 2.5, APG: 3.7
Butler PG Nored, Ronald 6’0 170lbs FR
PPG: 4.0, RPG: 2.9, APG: 2.5
Gardner has been one of the key reasons Wright State has been able to turn around their season. Since the 0-6 start, he has been averaging 11.2 PPG and has turned into the emotional leader of the team. At 36% he is the best 3-point threat on the team and a more dangerous shooter than Nored. Meanwhile, Nored is coming off two straight scoreless games for the Bulldogs. Expect Gardner to get the better of him in this match-up.
Advantage: Wright State
Wright State SG Graham, Will 6’2 185lbs SR
PPG: 5.2, RPG: 3.1, APG: 2.2
Butler SG Mack, Shelvin 6’3 185lbs FR
PPG: 13.3, RPG: 3.7, APG: 3.5
These two players are quite opposites. Mack has been improving nearly every game, while Graham’s production has decreased since last season. Leave Mack open anywhere on the floor and he will kill you. Leave Graham open anywhere on the floor and prepare to box out for a rebound. In the case Vaughn Duggins returns, he should occupy this role for the Raiders. However, he may have to shake the rust off after missing over a month. Either way, the Bulldogs have an advantage.
Wright State G Brown, Todd 6’5 205lbs JR
PPG: 6.7, RPG: 4.5, APG: 0.9
Butler F Hayward, Gordon 6’8 180lbs FR
PPG: 12.9, RPG: 6.5, APG: 1.8
Preseason 2nd-team all-conference player Todd Brown began his season just like the rest of the team, flat out ugly. During the 6 game win streak, however, he has been on fire, scoring in double figures in 5. While he is still struggling to find his shot (31% FG, 26% 3-pt), he is dangerous off the dribble and in the mid-range area. Hayward is coming off one of his best performances of the season (15pts, 13rebs, 4assists) and has been shooting much more consistently than Brown (46% from 3-pt). This should be a good match-up of two athletic swingmen who can do it all from the field. Hayward’s shooting gives him the slight nod.
Wright State F Cooperwood, Cory 6’7 215lbs JR
PPG: 10.7, RPG: 5.1, APG: 0.5
Butler F Veasley, Willie 6’3 190lbs JR
PPG: 8.3, RPG: 3.8, APG: 1.3
Cooperwood has been hit or miss this season, posting 5 games with 14+ points and 4 games under 6 points. The juco transfer from Alabama matches Veasley in athleticism but dominates him in size. While Veasley has proven time and again that he can hang with taller, athletic players, he will have his work cut out for him on defense. Cooperwood likes to score close to the basket. It seems odd to say this, but Veasley will have a clear advantage in shooting, although unlike other defenders he has faced, Cooperwood is not afraid to go out on the wing to defend shooters. This should be one of the most intriguing match-ups in the game.
Wright State C Thomas, Ronnie 6’9 240lbs JR
PPG: 4.3, RPG: 3.4, APG: 0.4
Butler C Howard, Matt 6’8 220lbs SO
PPG: 14.0, RPG: 6.8, APG: 1.2
While Thomas has solidified his position as the starting center, expect the Raiders to use a mixture of him, Cooper Land and Gavin Horne in an attempt to slow down Howard. Matt has been huge down low in recent games, and viewers shouldn’t expect anything different here either. In the second half, look for the Bulldogs to use Howard to wear down the defense and score on trips to the foul line which he has made a living off of lately. Thomas’ role is to provide size and scrappy defense, a role he has been embracing well according to Wright State message boards. Unfortunately for him, he hasn’t faced anyone as good as Howard in their recent win streak.
G Evans, N’Gai 6’2 165lbs SO PPG: 5.9, RPG: 2.0, APG: 0.7
G Tabler, Troy 6’3 185lbs SO PPG: 5.1, RPG: 2.1, APG: 0.6
F Land, Cooper 6’8 225lbs SO PPG: 4.1, RPG: 1.9, APG: 0.1
F Horne, Gavin 6’8 220lbs SR PPG: 3.2, RPG: 2.2, APG: 0.3
G Hahn, Zach 6’0 170lbs SO PPG: 5.7, RPG: 2.0, APG: 0.9
F Jukes, Avery 6’8 215lbs JR PPG: 4.1, RPG: 2.4, APG: 0.5
G Vanzant, Shawn 6’1 175lbs SO PPG: 2.8, RPG: 2.2, APG: 1.1
Wright State will utilize its bench early and often, especially rotating the big guys in and out. Guards Evans and Tabler both struggle to shoot the ball (29 and 37 percent respectively), but together attempt over 10 shots each game. Meanwhile, the Butler bench is coming off a rather rough offensive outing, shooting 5 for 17 against Valparaiso. Luckily for the Bulldogs, they are not called upon to score nearly as much as the Raiders bench is. As a whole it is difficult to predict a major edge to either team’s bench as both provide solid minutes and play strong defense.
Final Analysis: If there is one team I hate playing more than anyone else in the Horizon it is Wright State. While on paper they do not look like much of a threat to steal a win at Hinkle, Coach Brownell’s emphasis on lock-down defense worries me. Butler needs to keep possession of the ball and not force things, as turnovers have the potential to be a huge part of Thursday’s game. On defense I expect Coach Stevens to pack the lane and making the Raiders score from the outside. Since Wright State struggles to rebound the ball as well, this strategy would appear to make scoring very difficult for the visitors. Butler’s battle tested young team should be able to control the game for the most part, and provide enough spark to get the Hinkle Fieldhouse crowd involved. Butler should win, but it may be ugly.
Prediction: Butler 63, Wright State 55.
What are your predictions on the game? Will Butler sack the Raiders?
Tim Kemper--Butler UGroup Manager
Butler alumnus who loves to read and write about the Bulldogs. My greatest accomplishment is shooting a half-court shot during a Butler game...and missing.