The combination of an offensive output of .87 points per possession (PPP), the Hall's second lowest on the season (.87 FDU, .84 @ Villanova), and allowing Kellen Dunham (29 pts, 7-7 3pt) to torch the nets from beyond the arc early and often was a perfect recipe for disaster on the Bulldogs' Senior Night at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Seton Hall, who scored just 54 points on Saturday, did not fare much better when Butler visited Prudential Center, scoring just 57 points (.92 PPP) and registering only two baskets over the last 5:55 of play. "The one thing that we've really got to concentrate on is we struggled to score against them both times. That's something we've worked on the last couple of days," said Pirates head coach Kevin Willard of Seton Hall's offensive preparation during Monday's Big East teleconference.
"We have to do a much better job on Dunham, he had a heck of a night the other night. We let him get going and if you let a player like Kellen get going you're going to be in for a long night," said Willard of Kellen Dunham, who scored 20 of Butler's first 28 points on Saturday. "We're not going to change too much of what we do defensively, maybe just focus on him, but our offensive woes have really hurt us against them and we have to concentrate on how we're going to score on them."
The Pirates came up empty against Butler twice this season while trying to secure their first Big East winning streak since the 2011-12 season and tonight will look to stave off a three-game sweep over their first three meetings with the former Horizon League and Atlantic 10 school. Despite the appearance that Brandon Miller's team has Seton Hall's number, Kevin Willard doesn't quite think so.
"No not really. The first game we were up four with about three or four minutes to go, we missed a couple layups and we kinda came down and lost Dunham, he hit two threes. We have done a good job on them defensively, then the other night they played really well. I told a reporter there [at Butler] that I thought they had great bounce in their step like they had at the beginning of the year -- when Dunham is able to come off screens and get open he's a fun player to watch. I don't think I worry about our guys' mental issues from that aspect, it's more or less just getting refocused and we've got to change the game plan a little bit," a strategic switch that will see the Pirates stray from a zone they've played for the last two games.
"We tried to play zone against them last time and that didn't work, so we're going to try to play man-to-man," said Willard. "From our mental standpoint making sure they [the players] understand why we're making the changes and what were going to do offensively and defensively, that's where I worry about it mentally a little bit."
Seton Hall's loss at Butler helped set up this uncommon 8-9 back-to-back matchup in the Big East Tournament bracket, the Bulldogs would have lost a tiebreaker with DePaul for the 9-seed if they didn't defeat Seton Hall on the weekend. Both head coaches seem to think the consecutive meetings between their teams has its advantages and disadvantages.
"I don't know if it helps or hurts, it's the same for both teams," analyzed Butler head coach Brandon Miller. "Once you play a team at the end of the conference year, the coaches, the players, everyone is familiar with your opponent. Your guys are able to pick up what they are trying to do a little bit easier just because you've been through the Big East, you just know your opponent in terms of scouting, just like they know us. The quick turnaround, they are really going to know what we're trying to do, they're going to know our personnel, they're going to know our tendencies and we're going to try our best to know theirs. I don't know if it's an advantage or a disadvantage, you just have to know going in that they're going to know you inside and out and you have to play the game."
Kevin Willard matched Miller's sentiments, though Seton Hall clearly has more work to do after dropping two games to Butler during league play.
"It definitely helps. You go back and see what worked and what didn't work and you make changes. As far as players go, they know the personnel, they know most of their sets that they're going to run, so you work on the sets that hurt you and you work on the stuff you did good. From a preparation standpoint it's a little bit easier, the mindset is a little more difficult, but from a preparation standpoint it's probably a little bit easier."
Willard's team has been consistently inconsistent this season, but has replied to 5 out of 11 Big East losses this season with wins.
"We've played some pretty good basketball this year at times, and we've played some pretty bad basketball at times. I've been really happy with how Jaren Sina and Sterling [Gibbs] have played, but they are two young guards who at times have gone through it a little bit. We've had some injuries, not nearly as many as last year, but trying to find lineups that are consistent has been tough for us. Hopefully we can just concentrate on playing a little bit better against Butler and get some wins and maybe get some momentum."
Regardless of their 9-seed, Butler has played very well in three of their last four games including a +50-point margin of victory over their last two games.
"Down the stretch we've been playing pretty good basketball and you look at our last two games, we've been able to put both sides of the ball together and have played decently on the offensive end and on the defensive end," analyzed Miller.
Despite being a Big East newcomer, Butler is familiar with Madison Square Garden having played St. John's there last month.
"I definitely think it helps that we've played in the Garden. We have some familiarity with the arena, we've played a game there, it's not going to be the first time that we walk into the arena," stated Brandon Miller. "I do like the fact that we've played in the arena, but we know that we have a very difficult game in front of us in Seton Hall. We're playing on a neutral site, we don't have to go to their home floor, we're not on our home floor, I like the fact that it's a neutral site."
Both sides enter this post-season neutral floor contest with unchanged bills of health. Fuquan Edwin (1596 pts per ESPN) sits 13th on the all-time Seton Hall scoring list and needs 26 more points to pass John Morton (1621 pts.; 1985-89) on that list. Edwin would likely require two Big East Tournament games to achieve this. Patrik Auda (22 pts) was the lone bright spot for Seton Hall on Saturday and will look to build upon his highest scoring total since pouring in 27 against Monmouth in November. Here is a more detailed individual player preview from prior to Saturday's game.
The winner of tonight's contest will face top-seeded Villanova tomorrow at noon.
KenPom says: No. 90 Seton Hall - 66, No. 95 Butler - 65 (51%)
Projected Butler starters:
When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.
TV: FOX Sports 1
Radio: AM 970 (Gary Cohen, Dave Popkin), Sirius ch. 93, XM ch. 191