While Butler is excited to begin play in the Atlantic 10, coach Brad Stevens knows his team must play better than in its last contest to be successful within the conference.
Looking for a 10th consecutive victory, the No. 14 Bulldogs expect to face a stiff test in their A-10 debut at preseason league favorite Saint Joseph's on Wednesday night.
Butler (12-2) was not expected to join the A-10 until 2013-14, but after some presidents from its former conference in the Horizon League wanted the school ineligible for league championships this season, the Bulldogs made the jump a year early. With the additions of Butler and Virginia Commonwealth, the A-10 currently has 16 teams, but it will drop back to 14 next season when Temple leaves for the Big East and Charlotte for Conference USA.
The Bulldogs, picked sixth in a preseason poll by the league's coaches and media, either shared or outright won five straight regular-season Horizon titles before tying for third last season. Their five A-10 games this month besides Wednesday's matchup all come against teams which have at least 10 wins, and the first two are on the road - they visit Dayton on Saturday.
"We have to play Butler basketball, we have to play our 'A' game the next two games, really for the next month," Stevens said. "You better bring it, you better be good because B-plus won't cut it anymore."
Though the Bulldogs are in the midst of their longest winning streak since a 14-game run that ended with a loss to Connecticut in the 2011 national final, they struggled at times in Saturday's 57-44 victory over New Orleans. Butler was held to its lowest point total and shooting percentage (40.5) since November, committed 15 turnovers and had only a six-point halftime lead against a Privateers team which entered with a 3-9 record.
"You're going to have games like this throughout the course of the season, and I hope this is one of the very, very few," Stevens said.
His players don't expect that kind of play to be common moving forward.
"We're not concerned at all," said forward Khyle Marshall, who has totaled 27 points on 12-of-18 shooting in the last two games. "Like coach said, it was just one of those games. We know it wasn't our best game, we've just got to get better."
They'd certainly like to get better from 3-point range, shooting 29.6 percent (21 of 71) in the past four games. Leading scorer Rotnei Clarke is second in the A-10 with 52 3s but is 2 for 15 from beyond the arc over the last two games while totaling 10 points, about six below his season average.
Saint Joseph's (8-4) has limited its last two opponents to 4 for 28 from 3-point range.
Paced by three preseason all-conference selections, the Hawks have won a season-high three in a row and also handed No. 17 Notre Dame its only loss in November.
Carl Jones scored 17 and Langston Galloway added 16 in Saturday's 70-60 win at Morgan State.
"We have some answers, and we have some balance... we have to keep playing better," coach Phil Martelli said.
Jones (15.6 ppg) and Galloway (15.0) pace the Hawks, who have allowed an average of 59.4 points on 38.8 percent shooting while going 4-1 at home. They'll try for a third consecutive home victory over a Top 25 opponent as they face Butler for the first time since a 47-43 win at the Philadelphia Convention Hall on Jan. 31, 1941.
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