Butler gets quick turnaround to face No. 5 Xavier
CINCINNATI -- Butler didn't have much time to bask in the limelight of its upset victory over No. 1-ranked Villanova.
The Bulldogs were impressive in beating the Wildcats 101-93 on Saturday at Hinkle Fieldhouse, but life in the Big East Conference doesn't lend itself to a lengthy celebration.
"This can't be the highlight," Butler coach LaVall Jordan said of the win over Villanova. "It is a great highlight. But it can't be the only highlight of the season moving forward."
On Tuesday night, Butler (12-3, 2-0 Big East) and No. 5 Xavier (14-1, 2-0) will battle for sole possession of first place in the conference at Cintas Center.
Xavier has won nine straight games, but in the past three at home, the Musketeers have had to rally from a 22-point deficit to beat East Tennessee State, hold on for a four-point win over Marshall, then on Saturday rally from 16 down to beat DePaul in the Big East opener.
The No. 5 ranking equals Xavier's highest in program history, but head coach Chris Mack said his team's recent lackluster performances at Cintas aren't indicative of the lofty status.
"Over the past two weeks, I don't think we've played like a top-five team," Mack said. "I think we're capable of doing that. I hope we're a better version of ourselves tomorrow night against a really good Butler team."
Xavier leads the all-time series 38-20, including a 7-3 advantage since both teams joined the Big East. The Musketeers beat Butler 62-57 in the Big East Tournament last season, a win that moved them off the NCAA Tournament bubble, and Xavier responded with a run to the Elite Eight.
Because of their regional proximity and history as rivals in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League) and Atlantic 10, the Butler-Xavier rivalry is one of the most unique in the Big East.
"The fact that they are located 90 miles away, and we compete in recruiting, and I think the fans get excited when we play," Mack said. "Both programs are really familiar with each other. It's a great rivalry and one we are excited to play in."
The Musketeers need to be wary of Butler sharp-shooters Paul Jorgensen and Kelan Martin. Jorgensen has made 34 3-pointers already this season. The pair helped Butler connect on 15 3s, including a school-record 10 straight in the win over Villanova.
Wildcats coach Jay Wright said Butler is the best offensive team they had played so far.
Xavier isn't too shabby on offense either, making Tuesday's matchup a must-see affair. The Musketeers rank second in the Big East and 12th nationally in field goal percentage at 51.4 percent.
Sophomore forward Tyrique Jones leads the conference, shooting 69.5 percent. Trevon Bluiett, once a Butler recruiting target, is fourth in the Big East in scoring, averaging 19.7 points per game.
Xavier has been prone to defensive lapses this season. The Musketeers can ill-afford to have one against the Bulldogs.
"We've got our hands full tomorrow night with their perimeter players," Mack said.
Updated January 1, 2018