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2016 NCAA Tournament Previews: Butler

The Hoos moved on to the round of 32, where they face the Butler Bulldogs. Butler is a much better team than Hampton, so Wahoo fans should not expect another 30 point blowout. Butler is one of the top 3 point shooting teams in the nation, and that's a tough matchup for the Pack-Line Defense.

Anthony Gill and company figure to have the advantage on the inside again.
Anthony Gill and company figure to have the advantage on the inside again.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

With a few minutes remaining in the 8/9 matchup between Butler and Texas Tech, my phone buzzed with an "upset alert" because 9th seeded Butler was leading the game. Perhaps by seed the game was technically an upset, but we know that 8/9 games are essentially a coin flip. Texas Tech had a higher RPI (33-54), but that was largely a result of playing in the Big12, which was a better conference than the Big East. However, Butler is ranked higher on Kenpom (40-45), Sagarin (30-48) and ESPN's BPI (35-46). In truth, a win by 8th seeded Texas Tech would've been an upset.

The Hoos, of course, don't care about that. They'll play whoever they have to play. That said, Texas Tech almost undoubtedly would've been a better matchup for the Hoos. One of the easiest ways to beat the Pack Line Defense is by making 3s. Butler is the 16th best 3 point shooting team in the nation. The Red Raiders are the 174th best. But, alas, Butler is the matchup so let's move on. The game will tip off at 7:10 PM and will air on TBS.

As mentioned, Butler is a very good shooting team. Three players shoot 40% or better from behind the arc: Kellen Dunham (43%), Jordan Gathers (40%) and Austin Etherington (44%). Gathers and Etherington don't start and only average around 10 minutes or so per game. Dunham, a senior, is the starting SG and leads the team with over 16 points per game. He made 5-9 from downtown against Texas Tech and led the team with 23 points. (Gathers and Etherington combined for 31 minutes and 1-3 shooting from downtown.)

Though Dunham's 16.3 ppg lead the team, sophomore Kelan Martin is the team's best offensive player. He's right behind Dunham at 16.1 ppg and takes more shots more than Dunham. Both Dunham and Martin are roughly 6'6", but Martin is much stronger and better on the inside. In fact, Martin is the team's leading rebounder (at 6.6 rpg). This duo is a tough matchup for most teams on the wings. The Hoos, though, are not most teams. Malcolm Brogdon and Marial Shayok and Devon Hall are all big enough to guard Dunham, and Brogdon is certainly strong enough to muscle up with Martin. One thing to not about the pair of wings, is though both are very good scorer's neither one is really looking to create shots for others. This makes Virginia's help defense very important.

One wing for Butler who is a very good passer is 6'7" junior Andrew Chrabascz, a "stretch-4" who in reality is more of a 3 He is a gifted offensive player. He can shoot and pass and he can also score inside with his back to the basket. But he's not going to go down low and bang with Anthony Gill in the post. Isaiah Wilkins will also have an advantage inside and on the glass. The Bulldog's other big is 6'8" sophomore Tyler Wideman, an athletic banger who is really the only interior defender on the team. He's also a decent shot blocker and the best offensive rebounder on the team. He's not really a post scorer, but will run the floor and will finish inside with authority. He shoots nearly 60% from the field.

The final piece is PG Roosevelt Jones. He can't shoot a lick, but he's big (6'4" 225) and he's quick and he can get into the paint and finish. He draws a lot of fouls and shoots a lot of FTs, though he shoots just 67% from the stripe. The Hoos big men will have to be careful with their reaching when they hedge on ball screens, because he'll lean into it and draw the foul. (Other than Jones and Wideman, Butler has outstanding FT shooters, led by Dunham's 85%.

Stylistically, Butler isn't a ton different from the Hoos. Because they almost always have 3 "guards" on the floor, they can get out in transition quickly. But they aren't generally looking to run. When they do run, watch for one of their perimeter players to spot up for an open 3. The Hoos will have to wary of this. They don't turn the ball over much, which is OK for a Wahoo team that doesn't really look to force TOs.

Like Hampton, Butler simply doesn't have the size to play against the Hoos inside. Wideman has a bit of a tendency to get into foul trouble (he fouled out 5 times this year), which is part of why he plays just 24 minutes per game. If the Hoos can get him out of the game, they'll really have their way on the inside. Also like Hampton, Butler really only goes 6 deep. The 6th man is Tyler Lewis. He's the backup PG, but he often comes in for one of the bigs, and pushes Jones to the wing. Freshman Nate Fowler is the only other big on the roster, and he's played mostly garbage time since Big East play began. He does have the ability to step out and drain the 3, though he's not much of a defender right now, and he's a foul machine.

If the Hoos decide to go big with Mike Tobey and Anthony Gill on the floor, then the Bulldogs are left with a tough decision. Do they let Wideman stay on Gill, leaving somebody giving up half a foot to guard Tobey inside? Or do they put Wideman on Tobey, still giving up a lot of size, and let Gill work against a subpar interior defender. Of course, the counter to that is Gill (or Tobey) having to guard somebody on the perimeter, something he isn't adept at.

In fact, the matchups on both sides of the floor could be interesting. Does Tony put Brogdon on Dunham, in an attempt to shut down the Bulldog's best shooter? Or does Brogdon match up with Martin, who he'll be giving up some size to? And who guards Jones, one of the toughest matchups in college basketball. He might be too big for Perrantes to guard, so maybe he gets matched up against Devon Hall. That would likely leave Perrantes chasing Dunham around all game, something that may tire Perrantes out. Isaiah Wilkin's flexibility also provides options, because he could likely match up with Martin when Butler goes small.

On the other end, Butler may use some zone, just like Hampton did. The Hoos did a good job getting the ball inside against Hampton's zone. They got some open looks from 3 and knocked them down. Because of that, Hampton didn't stay in the zone for very long. Butler may stay in their zone longer, especially if they can hang with the Hoos on their offensive end. Because of Butler's lack of size, they often have to double-team down low. This tends to leave to open 3 point shots. If the Hoos shoot anything like they did on Thursday, that'll be a big problem for Butler.

The Hoos will need to extend the Pack Line to account for Butler's shooters. If a guy like Dunham is left open, he'll bury jumpers. And if Butler gets hot, they can score in bunches. The Hoos figure to have a big advantage on the inside, and they'll want to use that on both ends. Keeping Wideman off the offensive glass is the easiest way to shut him down, and Butler doesn't really have anybody who can consistently score in the post. If Butler can't get points inside, the Hoos can focus their attention on shutting down Butler's shooters.

Among previous opponents, Butler is probably most similar to Duke. That is scary, since the Hoos lost to Duke. But that game was also in Duke's arena, with the Cameron Crazies. And though the Hoos shot the ball poorly from outside, they did good work inside. And yet they suffered a large FT deficit, not surprising for a game on the road against Duke. Despite all that, they only lost by 1 on a last second bucket. This game figures to be more evenly officiated and you wouldn't expect the Hoos to shoot 18% from 3 again as they did against Duke.

The two teams have two common opponents, Butler lost 85-75 to Miami early in the season, and then was swept by Villanova (60-55 at home and 77-67 at Villanova) in Big East play. Butler was also swept by Providence and Xavier, along with road losses to Marquette and Creighton. In all of those games, the Bulldogs were beaten inside. In most, they were dominated inside. The Hoos are certainly a team that can overwhelm the undersized Bulldogs on the inside. The Hoos depth will also be a weapon, especially considering the quick turnaround from Thursday.