Big game tonight at Bartow

The Blazers (10-1), a team on a roll, face their toughest challenge of the season as the Butler Bulldogs (8-3) visit Bartow Arena for a 7 p.m. tip off.  Butler's record is kind of deceiving. Their losses have come to Georgetown (72-65), Clemson (70-69) and MInnesota (82-73). All three teams are tournament teams and Gtown and Clemson could do some damage in tourney. The Bulldogs are ranked No.16 by ESPN/ USA Today and No.20 by the AP.

Butler has quality wins over Ohio State (74-66) and Xavier (69-68). Xavier has beaten Cincinnati in double overtime this season. UAB beat Cincy last week, 64-47 last week. The Bulldogs have also beaten UCLA (69-67) and Northwestern (67-54), both pretty decent teams.

Leaders for Butler:

Six-foot-nine inch power forward Gordon Hayward leads the Bulldogs in scoring at 17.4 ppg. He also averages almost nine rebounds per game. Shelvin Mack, a 6'3", 215 pound guard, is next at 14.5 per game, four rebounds and 3.4 assists. Matt Howard, a 6'8", 230 pound forward, comes in at 12 per game and five boards. Hayward and Mack are sophomores and Howard is a junior.

Leaders for UAB: 

Elijah Millsap averages nearly 16 points per game and 10.4 rebounds. The junior transfer from Louisiana-Lafayette has been a force. Howard Crawford, a senior, is next at 13. 6 and 4.3 boards. Junior Jamarr Sanders averages 11.8 and 4.8 boards and senior George Drake checks in at 9.3 points per game. Drake had 24 Sat. Night against South Alabama. Aaron Johnson, the junior point guard, is averaging nine points and 4.5 assists. 

Keys to the game:

Butler can shoot and they hustle. They hit the boards pretty hard, too. UAB will have to take care of the basketball as they have been doing pretty well this season, and pass for the open man. They've been doing that very well this season. They're  shooting 29 percent from three-point line, so that will have to improve tonight. Drake was 4-for-8 Sat. Night, so that was encouraging. 

The Blazers need to hit the glass and really defend on the perimeter because the Bulldogs shoot 35 percent from three point range–very dangerous from there. It's just going to come down to who wants it more. This game is even in talent.

Prediction:

This is going to be a war. For the Blazers to win, they will have to play their best game of the season and shoot the ball well, outrebound the Bulldogs and defend, defend, defend.

Tough call, but I'll go with the Blazers barely: UAB 71, Butler 70.