Coming of just an amazing victory (yeah, I'm going to go with amazing) against the BYU Jimmer's and supporting cast, the Gators face their next opponent in the Bulter Bulldogs of the Horizon League.
Butler was the NCAA Runner-up last year, largely due to the play of current Utah Jazz member Gordan Haywood. But a lot of that team remains, and this year they already have won the Horizon Tournament (and co-regular season) championship.
The Butler Bulldogs aren't going to jump off the page at you and scream National Championship contender, but that isn't always what gets it done. They came pretty close last year and seem to be playing at that level again this year.
They have good wins against Wisconsin, Pittsburgh and Florida State. They also lost to Duke and Louisville this year, but so did a lot of other teams. All of their conference losses came against teams that finished in the upper half of the Horizon League, with Wright State being the worst loss of the bunch.
The Butler Bulldogs rank 71st in the country when looking at points per game, averaging a crisp 72.8. While that number isn't great, it is more than enough to beat quite a few teams as we have seen thus far in the Tournament. Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack lead the scoring charge for Bulter while averaging 16.7 and 15.6 points per game respectively.
In terms of rebounds however Butler ranks 177th in the country at 34.9 rebounds per game. Matt Howard again leads the Bulldogs with an average of 7.7 rebounds per game. They also boast five other players that average more than 3 rebounds per game.
Once again the Gators will face a team that is not afraid to take a three point shot and they know how to make them. Matt Howard at 43% and Shawn Vanzant at 42% are the top threats from downtown and as we know, anything above 40% is phenomenal. Shelvin Mack shoots the three at respectable rate of 35% but he can hit them. Just ask Pittsburgh. Other regulars from three point range include Ronald Nored 31%, Zach Hahn 33% and Chase Stigall at 34%.
As a team Butler shoots 73% from the free throw line but Zach Hahn and Shelvin Mack shoot over 80% from the line so it is obvious not to send them to the foul line.
All in all though, Butler so far in this NCAA Tournament has defeated Old Dominion (60-58), Pittsburgh (71-70) and now Wisconsin (61-54). They know how to win close games especially of late, and are currently on a 12 game winning streak.
They also play outstanding team defense and that is a fact that cannot be ignored. Neither can the fact that this team knows how to win, they have been there before and want to get back. Head coach Brad Stevens who is 114-24 in his career at Butler also knows what it takes to win as evidence of his 4 straight NCAA appearances in 4 seasons as head coach.
In terms of matching up with Butler, I think the Gators match up fairly well. If Alex Tyus plays as good against Butler as he did against BYU I think he can limit the production and/or equal the production of Matt Howard. It just depends on which Tyus (defensive or offensive minded) shows up.
Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton are going to need to do exactly what they did against BYU minus all the three point shots. If they have a slightly better shooting game and then play defense the way they did (especially Boynton) then I'm not going to be too worried.
Chandler Parsons, Vernon Macklin and Patric Young are going to need to do what they do best. For Parsons that is a little bit of everything, Macklin will need to pick it up a little bit, and Young needs to be that beast in the paint that he was at the end of the season and in the SEC Tournament.
I'm not going to go out and embarrass myself with another crazy prediction (guess my luck ran out at the start of the NCAA Tournament) but what I am going to say is that I think the Gators have to have a slight edge overall if they play like we know they can.