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North Carolina

vs.

Butler

Sweet 16

Pick

3/24/17

North Carolina escaped the second round helped by a late 12-0 run to beat Arkansas and now the Tar Heels get a Butler team that’s already shown it can beat the best teams in the country. And yet, the Heels are one of the biggest favorites of the Sweet 16, opening at -7.5 points at 5Dimes Sportsbook for the game in Memphis.

The Heels have great size and depth, there’s no denying that, but there are times when you need more than that. Against Arkansas, they were just 19-of-46 from two-point range and 5-of-17 from deep to go with 17 turnovers. Getting 18 offensive rebounds was great, but combined with the other things, that almost wasn’t enough to beat the Razorbacks.

Butler is going to take that exact route after dealing with Winthrop and Middle Tennessee in the first two games. The Bulldogs have some questionable losses this season, but swept Villanova and beat teams like Arizona and Cincinnati in non-conference. If you want to beat the Tar Heels, you have to stop the offensive boards, which is something Butler is okay at, but not great. The Bulldogs have some big bodies in Tyler Wideman and Nate Fowler, but both of them give up pounds and inches to both Kennedy Meeks and Tony Bradley. The same goes for almost every other position outside of Andrew Chrabascz or Kelan Martin on Justin Jackson.

Butler usually plays man defense, but it’s tough to see Chrabascz and Martin dealing with Isaiah Hicks and Luke Maye in the post. Arkansas has slightly better height than Butler on average and still gave up 18 offensive boards. It’s great to focus on limiting offensive rebounds, but when it comes down it, UNC grabs the offensive board on more than 40% of misses, which is easily the best rate in the country.

Outside of that size advantage, the rest of the matchup is fairly even, especially in the backcourt. Kemar Baldwin, Tyler Lewis and Avery Woodson have been great role players for Butler this season and have what it takes to match whatever Joel Berry, Theo Pinson and Nate Britt do. That statement can be made because Berry hasn’t looked like himself lately with only 13 points in the two tournament games and a free-throw percentage that has dipped as the season moved on. If Berry can’t play at his elite level, the Tar Heels cannot be an elite team and that’s exactly what Arkansas found out. And when Arkansas pressured UNC, the turnovers shot up so it’d be surprising if Butler didn’t work on a late-game press if they are down in the final 10 minutes, if not before.

Chrabascz’s ability to stretch the floor has been a big difference in early NCAA games, but he could meet his match in this game against Hicks or Jackson. As usual, Martin’s success off the bench is what will keep the Bulldogs around. The Heels have a ton of size and that will undoubtedly be an advantage, but Butler is a team that will slow the game down and with a couple box outs, that may be all the Bulldogs need to at least cover this game, if not take it down to the wire.

Our Pick - North Carolina -7

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