Butler is going to need a lot of things in order to upset top-ranked Villanova Wednesday, with one of those being efficient play from senior forward Andrew Chrabascz.
The Wildcats (14-0, 2-0 Big East) will visit 18th-ranked Butler (12-2, 1-1) at 6:30 p.m. (FS1, WLYV 1450 AM) in front of an already sold-out Hinkle Fieldhouse crowd.
The play of Chrabascz has been pretty consistent throughout this season, but not necessarily of late. In three of the past five games, he has shot just 29 percent from the floor (but 66 percent in the other two games), and is coming off a seven-turnover performance against Providence Sunday. However, what hasn’t been inconsistent is his ability to find open teammates.
Chrabascz had four assists in the win against the Friars, which matches his average over the last five games.
“I’m a big fan of Andrew’s,” Friars’ coach Ed Cooley said in a postgame news conference. “I really am. He chose a great school and a great system. He’s gotten a lot better.”
Chrabascz was referred to by Holtmann earlier this season as a “point forward,” and the statistics show that. He has 42 assists in 14 games and aside from Sunday’s ball-handling debacle; he only had 12 turnovers in the Bulldogs’ initial 13 games.
“That has to be what we're about, and our turnover percentage has been really good,” third-year Butler coach Chris Holtmann said earlier this season. “When you have your starting point guard (Tyler Lewis), who takes care of it at the level he does, that really helps. Andrew is the same way. Both of our kind of point guards, point forward, point guards, really take care of the ball at a high level.”
Chrabascz has evolved into a multi-faceted player that can contribute in a number of ways. He has scored in double figures in 10 games this season, has dished out at least four assists five times, and has grabbed at least seven rebounds five times, as well.
“A lot of Butler’s offense is run through (Chrabascz),” Cooley said. “They give him a lot of freedom to play. That freedom has really helped him grow.”
Chrabascz has the strength at 230 pounds and size (6-foot-7) to play on the blocks, but he also has the shooting ability (he’s made 15 3-pointers), passing and driving skills to have to be defended on the perimeter, as well.
“He’s a really tough match-up,” Cooley said. “Tough, because he can play inside, outside. He’s probably an underrated passer. He’s one of the best passing big men in the country.”
Wideman plays big
Chrabascz wasn’t the only effective Butler player that hurt Providence. Junior center Tyler Wideman followed up a statistically impressive effort (20 points and nine rebounds) against St. John’s on Thursday with a quietly effective 9-point, 6-rebound game against the Friars. However, his best play, according to Holtmann, may have been at the defensive end of the floor.
“Tyler continues to grow as a player,” Holtmann said, “which our fan base has long since appreciated.”
You can add Cooley to that audience of admirers.
“Wideman is one of, I think, the most underrated players in the country,” Cooley said.
Holtmann added that one of the more “underrated” aspects of Wideman’s ability is his basketball intellect. That was evident on the now famous slipped screen that helped seal a win over Indiana in the Crossroads Classic last month.
“When he is at his best,” Holtmann explained, “he’s really making an impact at both ends. We’ve talked to him about having to make more of an impact at the defensive end and I think that he has responded the last couple games.
“He’s fun to coach and he’s very bright in his understanding of the game.”
Brunk on the bench
The highest-rated recruit in Butler’s class of 2016 was Indiana All-Star center Joey Brunk and much was anticipated of his arrival. However, following his father having medical issues in November, Brunk has seen limited action.
He hasn’t played since a win over Cincinnati on Dec. 10 and Holtmann said Sunday that the Bulldogs were going to appeal to the NCAA for Brunk to be granted a “hardship waiver” for the season so that he could retain four years of eligibility.
“There have been other situations that have went through (the appeal process) that have been pretty similar,” Holtmann said, “so we’re pretty optimistic about that, given his unfortunate circumstances. He’s got some demands placed on him that most young people his age don’t have right now.”