Setting : The Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference clashes with the Horizon League when Fran McCaffery takes his Siena Saints (22-5) west for a non-conference showdown with Brad Stevens and his Butler Bulldogs (24-4).
Plot : Seeds are on the line. With a win Butler could be in position for a four seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Siena could secure an at-large bid even if they falter in their conference tournament.
Sub-plot : With 16 consecutive wins, Butler shares the longest winning streak in the country with Murray State. Siena had the nation’s longest streak (15) when it loss to Niagara a week ago.
The game is part of ESPN’s Bracketbusters series.
Flashback : Saturday’s game is the first between the two schools.
Siena and Butler have combined for five NCAA Tournament wins over the past three years. In last year’s second round, Siena held a four-point advantage on Louisville with seven minutes remaining before bowing 79-72. Butler has earned six berths in the field of 65 over the last ten years, including Sweet Sixteen appearances in 2003 and 2007.
Conflict : Both teams have a ten-point margin of victory. Siena scores 76 while holding opponents to 66. Butler scores 70. Their opponents get 60. Siena hits 46.7 percent of their field goals and holds opponents to 43.2 percent. Butler finishes 44.8 percent of the time but holds opponents to 42.2 percent.
Inside, Siena’s 6′9″ Ryan Rossiter will duel with Butler’s 6′8″ Matt Howard. Rossiter averages a double-double (14.5ppg, 10.8 rpg). Howard scores 12 a game with 5.4 boards. This matchup is more about skill than athleticism.
Both Rossiter and Howard establish position in the post that gives passing angles for teammates. Once they receive the ball, both can finish with either hand. This could be a battle of attrition with the player able to avoid foul trouble getting the better of it. Rossiter plays behind in the post allowing the opponent to receive.
When the ball is in flight, Rossiter steps back and leaves contact forcing the opponent into a jump shot that he defends well. Howard will struggle against the taller Rossiter.
But Howard is not the only Bulldog responsible for points.
Siena will have to slow down Gordon Hayward. The 6′9″ sophomore does it all. Hayward hits 48 percent from the field, including 29.8 percent from behind the three point arc. Hayward leads the Bulldogs with almost 16 points per game.
Edwin Ubiles will have his hands full with Hayward. Ubiles averages 15 points and three rebounds.
Shelvin Mack leads the Bulldogs with 45 three-pointers. The sophomore hits 35.7 percent from long range.
Ronald Nored will need to slow the nation’s leading assist man. Siena’s Ronald Moore has 7.7 assists every game. The senior is difficult to contain. He is not afraid to knock down a three. Moore can go off the dribble and pull up, or the Pennsylvania native can take it to the rack and finish.
Nored will need to minimize Moore’s impact on the game.
Willie Veasley is the only senior in Butler’s starting lineup. Veasley chips in 10 points and four rebounds.
Alex Franklin leads the Saints with 16 points. Clarence Jackson chips in 13 points.
Siena has dealt with injuries throughout the season. Ubiles has been bothered of late with a sore back. Kyle Downey is still on the shelf with a broken ankle.
O.D. Anosike and Owen Wignot will provide valuable minutes off the bench for the Saints.
Zach Hahn, Avery Jukes, and Shawn Vanzant all play double-digit minutes for the Bulldogs.
Resolution : Butler’s home-court advantage will play a role in the outcome of today’s game. Siena used their full-court press to a fault in their recent loss to Niagara. The Saints will need to strike a balance against the Bulldogs. The press can limit Hayward’s production. But will the Bulldogs expose the full-court defense with long and opposite passes?
When Siena backs into a half-court set, can Ubiles neutralize Hayward?
Siena can win in the paint. Rossiter will get Howard in foul trouble early.
The Saints have a chip on their shoulder. Despite their recent winning streak, Siena received little attention in the polls. Winning this game all but assures Siena an at-large bid in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
Siena wins a one-possession game.