Busting Brackets

UConn vs Butler: 2023-24 college basketball preview, TV schedule

With Big East play is in full swing, the defending national champion UConn Huskies head to Hinkle Fieldhouse looking to earn a tough road win versus an upset-minded Butler team.
Butler v Connecticut
Butler v Connecticut / Joe Buglewicz/GettyImages

The fourth-ranked UConn Huskies travel to a tough environment in Hinkle Fieldhouse to face off against a Butler Bulldogs team that is hungry for a signature win this season. Butler currently finds themselves right in the thick of the NCAA tournament bubble and is still searching for their first quad 1 win of the season.

TV Schedule: Friday, January 5th, 6:30pm ET, FS1

Arena: Hinkle Fieldhouse

Butler currently sits at 10-4 (1-2 Big East), but remains undefeated on their home floor. UConn marks their third top 25 opponent of the year, with their previous two matchups being losses to then #18 Michigan State in East Lansing and #19 Florida Atlantic on a neutral site. Despite failing to win either, game, Butler often remained competitive, especially in the Florida Atlantic game, which was a back-and-forth affair ultimately resulting in a 91-86 loss.

However, the matchup with UConn will be their first true home game versus a top 25 opponent. In the past few seasons, Butler almost always defeats at least one top-25 opponent in Hinkle, and they have defeated at least one top-25 opponent at home every year since the 2019-20 season. Additionally, Butler has a history of knocking off the top 5 opponents in Hinkle, having knocked off then-No. 1 Villanova in back-to-back years in 2016 and 2017. However, Butler has a 0-7 record against UConn, including their loss to the Huskies in the 2011 National Championship game. But with a Butler team hungry for a big win after back-to-back road losses, that may be a trend that could change come Friday night.

On the flip side, UConn is still searching for their first true road win of the season, with their first two road matchups resulting in losses to Kansas and Seton Hall, respectively. Outside of those two games, however, UConn is 12-0 on the season with wins over opponents such as Indiana, North Carolina, and Gonzaga.

With these impressive early season wins, the Huskies have made a statement that they have the pieces to repeat as national champions come March. However, the Huskies will be missing one of their key pieces, as star big man Donovan Clingan will be sidelined with a foot injury sustained in their loss to Seton Hall last December. Though Clingan should be back by the end of the month, the Huskies remain a bit more vulnerable than usual. This could be seen in their matchup versus St. John's a few days after Clingan's injury, where the Huskies eked out a 69-65 win, and narrowly avoided being upset at home by an unranked opponent.

However, Clingan is just one of the many pieces that make up this UConn team, as the Huskies have three other players averaging double figures in scoring alongside Clingan. Guards Cam Spencer and Tristen Newton lead the team in scoring with Spencer averaging 15.2 ppg while Newton is right behind him with 15 ppg. Forward Alex Karaban is also not too far off this mark with 14.4 ppg while also shooting 52.7% from the field. Samson Johnson, who has started in place of Clingan, has been very impressive since moving into the starting lineup, and has shot 73% from the field in his first two games in the starting lineup.

The Huskies have proven that they beat teams in a variety of different ways, and with their top four scorers putting up very similar numbers, it is often tough for opposing teams to contain the entirety of this UConn team.

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All things considered, this is a matchup that very much has upset potential. And that could very well be what happens. Butler has a guard-heavy lineup, with their top four scorers all being guards. Pierre Brooks leads the Bulldogs with 16.4 ppg, while fellow guards DJ Davis, Jahmyl Telfort, and Posh Alexander, aren't too far behind. However, Butler has struggled defensively so far, and their post defense has arguably been their biggest weakness.

With Alex Karaban and Samson Johnson playing very well in recent games, it may be tough for Butler to slow both of them down on the defensive end. This game will likely feature plenty of scoring, and be close throughout. Butler's guards will keep them in the game, but ultimately, the balanced attack of UConn's offense will be too much for the Bulldogs to overcome.

Prediction: UConn: 86, Butler: 81