Pick – Analysis
The NCAA Tournament opened a little crazy and if you like underdogs, you were living the dream. Not only did UAB and Georgia State win as 14-seeds, but the first 10 Games of the Tourney were covered by the underdog, including the Games these two teams played. Both advanced though (Butler was an underdog), and meet in the Round of 32.
Notre Dame’s issues came about in the first Game against Northeastern, but still advanced despite them. The Irish big men got into immediate foul trouble and that kept Northeastern around for much of the Game. UND is not a big team, nor a deep one. They will likely have to battle yet again against a rough-and-tough Butler team that out-stronged a big Texas squad.
The Bulldogs don’t have many strengths, they just play all-around solid basketball and that showed against Texas. They shot 16 more free throws than the Longhorns and forced Texas into 15 turnovers, which ultimately decided the Game because neither offense was great. This Butler team already beat North Carolina earlier this season so they have the taste of ACC blood in their mouths already. Of course, Notre Dame plays a bit of a different Game. In fact, the Irish’s Game relates somewhat to that of Indiana and Villanova, two teams Butler failed to beat this season.
The problem for Notre Dame is that they’ll have to deal with another physical team in this Game. The Bulldogs will likely feed Kameron Woods early and often down low, much like Northeastern fed SCott Eatherton. It will be vital for Zach Auguste not to get into early foul trouble. The biggest thing for Butler may be at what percentage second-leading scorer Roosevelt Jones is at after he had to limp through the closing minutes of the Texas Game. Jones is an important player and if he’s not 100%, that would be a blow against a high-paced Notre Dame squad. Elsewhere, Kellen Dunham and Alex Barlow should find some success against a Notre Dame defense that struggles against physical teams.
On the other end, the Bulldogs will get a much tougher Game against the most efficient offense in the country. They won’t really have anyone that can mark NBA-talent Jerian Grant, and that’s exactly what cost Northeastern in the first Game. The Bulldogs should be able to match up a little better with Auguste though, and that would be huge if they kept him in check. The pace of guys like Grant and Demetrius Jackson will be an issue and Butler will need to match what Northeastern did to shooters Steve Vasturia and Pat Connaughton (one combined three-pointer).
The early matchups for Notre Dame are basically against the types of teams they tend to struggle against. It wouldn’t be surprising for another Game to go down to the wire for the Irish. Butler was an underrated squad going into the Tournament and came into the 6-11 matchup as an underdog. The Bulldogs won’t go down without a fight, but will need to get something out of Roosevelt Jones if they want to win.