Butler has done it again; knocking off Pitt in the third round of the NCAA Tournament featuring a crazy ending with two somewhat controversial foul calls in the final seconds. Now the Bulldogs are in the Sweet 16 of the Southeast Regional along with Wisconsin, Florida, and Jimmer Fredette’s BYU Cougars. Here is the breakdown of Thursday night’s games and who I think will be heading to the Final Four.
By: David Kay
#8 Butler vs. #4 Wisconsin
How the Bulldogs Win:
We know this; Butler has been here before and been able to escape with victories in close games (their two tourney wins are by a total of three points) so let’s just stop this Cinderella, underdog talk please. Matt Howard and Andrew Smith are going to have to stay out of foul trouble against Wisconsin who led the nation in free throw percentage this season. The Bulldogs do not have a lot of depth up-front and the Badgers as always have great size in their frontcourt and wing players who are more than capable rebounders. Shelvin Mack is also going to have to put together a performance similar to what he did against Pitt when he dropped 30 points on 10-16 shooting.
How the Badgers Win:
All season long, Wisconsin has gotten consistent contributions from their stars; Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer. However, in their game against Kansas State, Taylor was 2-16 from the field finishing with 12 points. So how did the Badgers win that game?
Well, they got great contributions from their role players which has not always been the case during the year. Mike Bruesewitz, Josh Gasser, and Tim Jarmusz all knocked down shots, none bigger than the Bruiser’s three that broke a 61-61 tie with 1:27 to play. That trio combined to average a little more than 14 points per game during the season but scored 30 points against K-State. If those three guys and Keaton Nankivil are hitting their shots, Wisconsin will be too much for Butler to handle.
Prediction: Wisconsin 67, Butler 65
#3 BYU vs. #2 Florida
How the Cougars Win:
Be more than the Jimmer Show. In BYU’s victory against Gonzaga, Jimmer dropped a relatively ho-hum 34 points but his supporting cast came to play as well as three other players scored in double digits. With so much attention on Jimmer, guys like Jackson Emery, Noah Hartsock, and Charles Abouo will have to be knocking down their perimeter shots.
BYU also has to offset Florida’s athleticism and quickness inside. Vernon Macklin, Alex Tyus, and Patric Young are all strong, athletic, and explosive inside. The Cougars have some size in their frontcourt but certainly are not the same team inside without Brandon Davies.
How the Gators Win:
Florida has an undersized backcourt of Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton who stand 5-8 and 6-2 respectively. Since they do not have the length that has flustered Jimmer at times this season, they have to constantly be in his grill with smothering on the ball defense and not give him an inch of breathing room because we have all seen how Jimmer can pull it from anywhere past halfcourt.
Walker and Boynton also tend to be a bit of chuckers who take some very questionable shots at times. They need to take what is given to them and not try to get into a shoot-out with Jimmer because that is a battle they will lose 99 out of 100 times. When these two teams played in the tourney last year, the Gator backcourt combined to go 8-23 from three in a seven-point, double overtime loss. Work the ball from the inside-out and take what is given to them from distance, and Florida should be able to advance to the Elite 8.
Prediction: Florida 78, BYU 73
#4 Wisconsin vs. #2 Florida
How the Badgers Win:
It is not shocking, earth-shattering analysis here; but just do what Wisconsin does best. If the Badgers take care of the basketball, work for good shots, and stick to their defensive principles, they will have a very good chance of advancing to the Final Four for the first time since 2000. Taylor and Leuer will have to play like the Wooden Award finalists that they are and at least two of their role players will need to put some points on the board. Florida would try to speed up this game a bit, but the Badgers usually do not allow that to happen to them.
How the Gators Win:
SEC Player of the Year Chandler Parsons will have to live up to that billing. He is the type of player who seems like he would be a great fit in Bo Ryan’s system because he does a little bit of everything on the floor. Parsons can shoot it from deep, is a great passer, and contributes in other areas of the game even when he is not scoring the basketball. His basketball IQ will be a major factor in a potential Elite 8 match-up against either Wisconsin or Butler.
Prediction: Wisconsin 71, Florida 66
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a fomer contributor at The Washington Times Communities. You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.Follow paulmbanks