Friday, March 18, 2016
game preview: Butler
Date/Time: Saturday, March 19; 7:10
Record against the Bulldogs: 0-0
Last meeting: Never
Last game: UVA 81, HU 45 (3/17); Butler 71, TT 61 (3/17)
UVA: 61.2 (#351)
Butler: 68.9 (#169)
UVA: 118.6 (#9)
Butler: 115.5 (#19)
UVA: 91.7 (#4)
Butler: 101.1 (#116)
UVA: .9505 (#1)
Butler: .8233 (#37)
PG: London Perrantes (11.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 4.4 apg)
SG: Malcolm Brogdon (18.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.9 apg)
SG: Devon Hall (4.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.8 apg)
SF: Isaiah Wilkins (4.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.4 apg)
PF: Anthony Gill (13.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 0.7 apg)
PG: Roosevelt Jones (13.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 4.8 apg)
SG: Kellen Dunham (16.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.5 apg)
SF: Kelan Martin (16.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.1 apg)
PF: Andrew Chrabascz (10.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.0 apg)
PF: Tyler Wideman (7.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 0.8 apg)
"Survive and advance" doesn't seem like the right phrase for a 31-point stompening, when a 1 seed treats a 16 seed like they're expected to. But then you look at what happened to Sparty - which you can just bet that I'm completely sick about. Torn up inside.** Nothing is granted you at the Dance macabre.
To drive that point home, this reminder: It's nothing but good teams from here on out. Even if UVA wins and draws Arkansas-Little Rock in the next round, those Trojans will have beaten both the 4 and 5 seeds.
UVA has never played Butler. Playing them right after Hampton sounds like the most 1% path through the tournament ever; it's too bad there aren't certain other teams in the tourney we could play next. We could drive our La Salle to our Citadel in the Hamptons and have the Butler waiting for us.
Matchups matter, team attributes matter, and these preview posts exist to discuss them, but the tao of the tournament is always this: the last game never matters. Two years ago UVA made it to the Sweet 16 by curb-stomping Memphis, which ran counter to all the expectations after they had big trouble with 15-seed Coastal Carolina. To get back to those heights this year, UVA has to play a whole new game.
-- UVA on offense
The interesting thing about Butler's defense is that there's absolutely nothing interesting about it. Most of the time, you have some thing or another that the opponent is good at or bad at. Butler is slightly good at rebounding and slightly good at getting steals, but there's no crazy good rebounder or ball thief driving those numbers. Kelan Martin is the top board guy, and he's good, not great - and his likely defensive assignment will be Ike Wilkins, so UVA gets a small advantage by pulling him away from the rim a little on that end. (It should also be noted that point guard Roosevelt Jones crashes the board much harder than any point guard we've seen, which throws off your blocking-out calculus quite a bit because your own point guard isn't going to do that on the offensive end.)
Butler is much bigger than Hampton, which you'd expect from a comparison between Big East and MEAC teams. They have good size in the backcourt that can match UVA's; where Malcolm Brogdon went down in the post quite a bit on Thursday and even went back-to-the-basket, he probably won't do that Saturday. They have enough size in the frontcourt, but not a lot of depth; Andrew Chrabascz and Tyler Wideman are the only players over 6'6". Neither are great rebounders (Wideman is decent, but not great) and a lineup of Gill and Tobey at the same time will likely dominate the boards and get plenty of second chances.
We go back to those interestingly uninteresting stats, though. The Bulldogs are the biggest "is what they is" team in college basketball. They were rarely upset (one very tight loss to Marquette on the road) and rarely upset anyone (beat Seton Hall on the road and Purdue at a "neutral site" a few miles from their home court.) Both those teams are already out of the tournament, and neither of those wins, nor that loss, really made anyone bat more than one eyelash. Not only that, but Butler rarely allowed more than a point per possession to worse teams, or fewer than a point per to better teams. It's hard to figure that UVA won't get its share of points as well.
-- UVA on defense
This side of the ball, Butler has a few things to talk about. Starting with their 3-point shooting, which is just a shade under 40% as a team. We all know that's the approved way to beat UVA, although it's also worth pointing out that shooting well from three doesn't guarantee you the win; ask Syracuse.
Kellen Dunham and Jordan Gathers are the top distance shooters by percentage, and Butler has one or the other on the floor at all times - though, rarely both. (If the name Gathers rings an old bell, it should. Jordan Gathers is the nephew of Loyola Marymount legend Hank Gathers.) Almost everyone Butler trots out will attempt a three at some point, except for Tyler Wideman and, oddly, point guard Roosevelt Jones. The only one who's something less than a threat to hit is Tyler Lewis (and if that name rings an old bell, it should too; Lewis is an NC State transfer, playing tournament games in his old home arena.)
Just because Jones doesn't shoot threes doesn't mean he's a pass-first (or pass-only) point guard; he loves to work off the dribble and has shot more twos than anyone on the team by far, including bigs Wideman and Chrabascz - combined. (Well, almost - they've taken 342 two-pointers, Jones, 338.) This is where the game will be won or lost. Everyone knows you beat the pack-line by collapsing it into its natural tendency to try and cut off drives, then kicking to an open three shooter and knocking it down. But if the pack-line is at its best, you won't even start that drive. That's what UVA needs to do, because if Jones isn't driving, the threes dry up quite a bit. I would guess that the game willl start with Brogdon on Dunham, but Tony will put him on Jones to break up Butler's rhythm on offense.
Butler is solid. They were 3-1 against OOC tournament teams, but 2-7 against Big East tourney teams. They take care of the ball, don't foul much, take good shots, etc. - all the hallmarks of a tough out in the tournament - but also don't play great defense, which sooner or later is going to mean their elimination. Sooner, it says here. They didn't succeed in beating anyone you'd consider a national title contender, even an outside one. What they can do well, UVA can do better. Never say never to an upset, but now isn't the time to call for one.
Final score: UVA 75, Butler 66
**I am not.