Greg’s Game of the Week

The conference season officially starts on Wednesday, January 9, with six league games on the slate. Here are the league match-ups for the week:

Wednesday, January 9
Butler at Saint Joseph’s
St. Bonaventure at George Washington
Rhode Island at Richmond
Duquesne at Fordham
Dayton at VCU
La Salle at Charlotte

Thursday, January 10
Temple at Xavier
Massachusetts at Saint Louis

Saturday, January 12
Saint Louis at Temple
Butler at Dayton
Charlotte at Rhode Island
Richmond at La Salle
VCU at St. Bonaventure
George Washington at Xavier
Saint Joseph’s at Duquesne

Sunday, January 13
Massachusetts at Fordham

Saint Joseph’s hosts Butler in the Bulldogs’ first Atlantic 10 Conference game, while VCU plays its first league game at home against Dayton. A tough choice between the two games but the game of the week has to go to the Bulldogs/Hawks match-up. It’s been a while and a lot of basketball has been played, but there’s a reason Saint Joe’s was chosen the preseason favorite to win the league, so it should be a good game between them and the conference’s highest ranked team.

The Rundown: Butler Bulldogs

The Bulldogs (12-2) have won nine games in a row, including a marquee win over then-number-one Indiana and a blowout win over the SEC’s Vanderbilt. Their lead scorer is Senior transfer Rotnei Clarke (11/26 A10 Player of the Week), who is averaging 16.2 points per game and is a 43% three-point shooter. Kellen Dunham is another Bulldog sharpshooter, especially from the charity stripe where the Freshman is hitting 94.2% of his attempts. He is a three-time A10 Rookie-of-the-Week and is Butler’s second leading scorer behind Clarke. The other key players for the Bulldogs are Sophomore Roosevelt Jones (12/27 A10 Player of the Week), Junior Khyle Marshall, and Senior Andrew Smith. Smith is the only current player in the NCAA to have played in multiple final fours, and his experience has been invaluable as he epitomizes toughness and a team-first attitude.

The Rundown: Saint Joseph’s Hawks

The Hawks’ (8-4) leading scorer is Langston Galloway, who is averaging 15 points per game and is hitting 36.7% of his three point attempts. The Hawks only have five players who have seen minutes in all twelve games of their season, including Galloway, and they have six players averaging more than 31 minutes per game. When playing the Bulldogs, they might run into trouble with a weak bench because of Butler’s physical (i.e. foul-inducing) style of play. Thus far, the Hawks have a marquee win against Notre Dame, but had a 29 point loss to Creighton, close losses to mediocre Florida State and Villanova teams, and an inexplicable loss to Fairfield.

The Smack:

Butler beats real teams. Butler has more wins over top 50 teams (2) than Saint Joe’s (0). In fact, Butler has a a better record than St. Joe’s while also playing a significantly stronger schedule (RPI SOS ) than Saint Joe’s (#75). On the other hand, in head to head matchups, the Hawks leader in rebounding (Ronald Roberts Jr.) has more rebounds than the Bulldogs’ leader (Khyle Marshall); the Hawks leader in assists (Chris Wilson) has more assists than the Bulldogs’ leader (Roosevelt Jones); the Hawks leader in steals (Langston Galloway) has more steals than the Bulldogs’ leader (Roosevelt Jones); and the Hawks leader in blocks (C.J. Aiken) has more blocks than the Bulldogs’ leader (Andrew Smith).

Matt Morton is a graduate of VCU and a cloud computing expert. He is a devoted college hoops fan and has been covering college hoops on the side since...