The top-seeded North Carolina men’s basketball team will look to keep its redemption tour rolling against No. 4 seed Butler in the Sweet 16 at 7:09 p.m. tonight. The Tar Heels hope this game will be a little more comfortable than their second round comeback victory over Arkansas, while the Bulldogs are vying for the upset.
Friday’s game marks the third year in a row North Carolina will play in the Sweet 16. Butler hasn’t made it this far since its magical tournament runs in 2010 and 2011, when the Bulldogs went to back-to-back national championship games.
How do they play?
Last year’s national champion and Butler’s rival in the Big East — Villanova — lost just three games in the regular season. Two of those defeats came at the hands of the Bulldogs, and each highlighted what they do to succeed.
Over the course of both games, Butler shot a combined 35-for-59 (59.3 percent) from inside the 3-point line. The Bulldogs have been able to keep up this clip throughout the season, as its 54.4 2-point percentage ranked 23rd in the country.
In its first game against the Wildcats, Butler turned the ball over just eight times en route to a 66-58 win. The team has been among the nation’s best at protecting the basketball all year, ranking 10th in the nation in turnover percentage.
Who stands out?
Butler’s top scorer — and arguably its best player — is junior forward Kelan Martin, who averages 16 points per game off the bench. Starting the game on the sidelines hasn’t halted Martin’s success this season, as he showed in the Bulldogs’ second-round win over Middle Tennessee State on Saturday.
In that game, Martin was 6-of-9 from the field and knocked down three 3-pointers on his way to a team-high 19 points. He also hauled in six rebounds and dished out four assists.
The effort behind Martin is pretty well-balanced, but another name that sticks out is Kamar Baldwin. The first-year point guard has split time with redshirt senior and former N.C. State guard Tyler Lewis this season and his assist-turnover ratio hangs right around 1.0, but his impact can’t be understated. Baldwin has put up some gaudy shooting numbers in his first year of collegiate ball (49.3 percent from the floor and 37.8 percent from three), and he leads Butler in steals, tallying 30 more than any other player on the roster this season.
What’s their weakness?
For the second game in a row, North Carolina will go up against a team with a rebounding deficiency.
The Bulldogs are among the nation’s worst at hauling in offensive rebounds, bringing in just 27.3 percent of its own misses this season. Overall, Butler has grabbed just 34 more rebounds than its opponents this season. On the other side of the table, the Tar Heels are the best offensive rebounding team in the country and have 473 more boards than their opponents this season.
If the Bulldogs turn the ball over more than they normally do, scoring chances will be few and far between and they will likely exit the tournament.
How could they win?
UNC has been able to survive two poor games from a hobbled Joel Berry so far — the junior guard is a combined 3-for-21 from the field in the tournament — but a third could be what Butler needs to pull off the upset.
If the Bulldogs limit Berry’s impact while playing to their strengths of maintaining possession and finding good looks, they could easily control the tempo of the game and earn themselves an Elite Eight berth.