Charlotte-Butler Preview

The Associated Press

Butler coach Brad Stevens and Charlotte coach Alan Major are Indiana natives who have differing opinions on how the absence of another person from the Hoosier State will impact their upcoming Atlantic 10 matchup.

The 11th-ranked Bulldogs will be without Andrew Smith when they look to improve to 13-0 at home Wednesday night against the 49ers.

Stevens and Major are not only both from the state, they are also former assistants under Thad Matta. Stevens was Matta's assistant at Butler and Major served in that role at Xavier and Ohio State.

Major is returning to his native Indianapolis, where Smith also hails from.

The Butler center is unavailable with an abdominal injury suffered in Saturday's 59-56 victory at George Washington. The 6-foot-11 Smith is second on the Bulldogs (20-4, 7-2) with 11.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.

"Andrew's not only one of our best offensive players but also one of our best defenders," said Stevens, who has been told the injury is not long term. "With Charlotte coming in here, Charlotte prides itself on winning the battle of the paint so certainly that presents a great challenge for us."

Major, in his third season with the 49ers (17-6, 5-4), doesn't expect Smith's absence to be to his team's advantage.

"It may affect things in terms of their rotation and who we match up but outside of that, it may not have a huge effect on the game," Major said. "I expect Butler to be the same old Butler."

Stevens is concerned about defending 6-9 forward Chris Braswell, averaging a team-high 11.8 points, and the 6-8 Willie Clayton, who is shooting 58.0 percent and grabbing 6.9 rebounds per game.

"Braswell is an accomplished guy with about 1,300 points and certainly a lot of those baskets in the paint," Stevens said. "Clayton is as good of an offensive rebounder and low-post scorer as we've played all season. It's going to be a great challenge for us, especially with a man down."

Stevens has not named Smith's replacement in the starting lineup, with Erik Fromm a likely candidate. Butler leads the A-10 in rebound margin at plus-7.8.

The Bulldogs have experience without one of their stars, going 2-1 in January without top scorer Rotnei Clarke.

"Just like when Rotnei was out, we've got to step up by committee and just hopefully play as well as we can," Stevens said.

Butler, off to its best home start since finishing 15-0 in 2009-10, nearly blew a 17-point second-half lead Saturday against a Colonials team that starts four freshmen.

Charlotte is also very young, with two freshmen and two sophomores joining the senior Braswell in its starting five. The 49ers enter after losing consecutive games for the first time, falling 68-61 to Virginia Commonwealth on Saturday.

"I'm happy with how our young guys have been thrust into some roles in which they've had to do a lot and they've done a nice job up to this point," Major said.

Charlotte leads the all-time series 2-1. These teams last met in 1993.

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