The Washington State Cougars and Butler Bulldogs have met on a holiday before -- Christmas 2010 at the Diamond Head Classic. They'll do the same on Thursday as they meet in the first round of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla. The game will be broadcast by ESPN2 at 11 a.m. PT EDIT: (the game time is dependent on the Purdue-OSU finish, and it looks like the game won't start until 11:45 am at the earliest).
The Bulldogs dominate the turnover game. Butler has turned the ball over on just 12.5 percent of possessions this season -- sixth-best nationally. Brandon Miller squad is also good at taking the ball away, forcing opponents to give the ball up 22 percent of the time. That number is 33rd among all Division I teams.
Beyond turnovers, Butler is also good at securing the defensive glass. The Bulldogs are grabbing almost 75 percent of opponents' misses, well over the national average of 68 percent.
Free throws have been an issue for Butler, on both ends. Bulldog opponents are shooting nearly 47 free throws for every 100 field goal attempts, against the national average of 42. On the other end, Butler is only shooting 40 free throws per 100 FGA.
To compound that free throw attempt deficit, the Bulldogs are making just 59 percent of their freebies.
Some good news for WSU -- Butler doesn't shoot particularly well from beyond the arc. The Bulldogs are hitting just 32 percent of 3s. Unfortunately for the Cougars, Butler isn't looking to shoot much from the outside, with the 252nd lowest percentage of 3-point FGA per FGA in the country.
Players to Watch
Kellen Dunham - Butler
Dunham leads the team in minutes played, and is one of the top offensive threats when on the floor, using a quarter of Butler's possessions. He has struggled with his shot so far, posting just a 45.2 effective field goal percentage.
But he does draw fouls well, and WSU will need to be aware of what Dunham is doing. He will have an impact on the game.
Khyle Marshall - Butler
Marshall and frontcourt-mate Kameron Woods combine to form a formidable rebounding duo. Marshall makes the most of his 6'6 size, grabbing 21.5 percent of opponents' misses and 12.3 percent of his teammates' misses.
The senior leads the team in shot percentage, taking nearly 28 percent of the FGA while he is on the floor. He has done well in his opportunities, making 66 percent of his twos. WSU may be better off fouling Marshall, he has hit just 5 of 13 free throws this season and has been around 55 percent for his career.
DaVonte Lacy - Washington State
Lacy is hoisting from beyond the arc more than ever, taking 39 3s in just four games. But he is also getting to the free throw line, to the tune of 56 free throws for every 100 field goal attempts. Against a Butler defense that has been foul-prone, Lacy needs to be on the attack going towards the basket.
Royce Woolridge - Washington State
Woolridge is singled out for the same reason -- free throws. The junior has struggled early, turning the ball over with high frequency and hitting just 1 of 8 3s. But he is has also shot nearly as many free throws as field goals, and that trend could easily continue against Butler.
To do so, he'll have to take care of the ball. Butler is among the best in creating steals, and Woolridge needs to do better in taking care of the ball.
The inside will also be key here. WSU has the size advantage in the frontcourt, with the problem being the Cougs' size isn't particularly talented. Ken Bone has to hope Washington State tallness is good enough to limit Butler's bigs.
KenPom prediction: No. 73 Butler 67, No. 161 WSU 62 on 65 possessions.