Busting Brackets

2015 NCAA Tournament Midwest Preview: Butler vs. Texas


Feb 16, 2015; Omaha, NE, USA; Butler Bulldogs guard Kellen Dunham (24) and teammates huddle after guard Kellen Dunham (24) makes a late game basket against the Creighton Bluejays at CenturyLink Center Omaha. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

As we continue previewing the first-round games in the Midwest region of the NCAA Tournament, attention on Thursday will shift to one of the popular upset picks on brackets.

Thursday, March 19; 2:45 p.m. – No. 6 Butler vs. No. 11 Texas


Feb 16, 2015; Omaha, NE, USA; Butler Bulldogs guard Kellen Dunham (24) and guard Alex Barlow (3) celebrate the win against the Creighton Bluejays at CenturyLink Center Omaha. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

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Strengths: In October, Big East powerhouse Butler looked like it wouldn’t be headed back to the tournament, but interim-turned-official head coach Chris Holtmann helped bring the team’s defensive identity back to full strength. The team’s attitude has not changed, as the Bulldogs are a scrappy bunch that will fight through an entire game. Their defensive calling card has not wavered, with a swarming physical defense leading the way to a 91.7 defensive efficiency rating on the season, good for 11th best in the country.

Senior guard Alex Barlow is a defensive nightmare, averaging 2.2 steals per game for 15th best in the nation. Senior forward Kameron Woods (9.6 rebounds per game) is one of the best defensive rebounders in the college level, and Butler really limits second-chance opportunities for their opponents.

They use that strong defense to fuel their transition scoring, led by junior guard Kellen Dunham (16.6 points per game). His shooting ability led to his All-Big East first-team selection, as he shot .415 from beyond the 3-point arc. Junior forward Roosevelt Jones is a bit undersized for a forward at 6’4″, but he averages 12.9 PPG and a team-leading 3.7 assists per game.

Weaknesses: Nothing hurts this team more than its’ free throw shooting. Butler shoots 68 percent from the free throw line as a team, with only three players (Barlow, Dunham and senior forward Austin Etherington) shooting better than 70 percent from the charity stripe. If Butler has to hold a lead late in the second half of a game, opponents can deny the ball to the best shooters and take their pick on which poor free throw shooter they want to foul.

While the Bulldogs are also generally good at taking care of the basketball, late turnovers in close games have cost them this year. As good as Dunham is, a lanky, athletic defender can disrupt him and, in turn, force other players to make big shots, something that the supporting staff has been inconsistent with.


Mar 2, 2015; Austin, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns guard Isaiah Taylor (1) and forward Jonathan Holmes (10) react after beating the Baylor Bears at the Frank Erwin Special Events Center. Texas beat Baylor 61-59. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

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  • Strengths: Texas out-rebounded Kentucky earlier this year. That should say everything that you need to know about this team’s height advantage over other squads. Head coach Rick Barnes has recruited multiple young guys with size, and the Longhorns’ post depth is arguably the best in the country.

    They are led in the post by 6’11” freshman forward Myles Turner, who averages 10.4 PPG and 6.4 RPG. He is joined by 6’9″ senior forward Cameron Ridley (8.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG), 6’9″ junior forward Connor Lammert (5.2 RPG) and 6’8″ senior forward Jonathan Holmes (10.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG).

    Sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor is Texas’ best offensive weapon, averaging 13.1 PPG and 4.5 APG. He is not a great shooter, but has a highly effective floater and is great at getting to the rim.

    Defensively, the Longhorns are tough to score on in the paint due to their size. They led the country in blocked shots per game, averaging eight, and led the Big 12 in rebounding. If Taylor’s shot is falling and the big men get involved on offense along with their defensive presence, Texas is a tough team to beat.

    Weaknesses: The Longhorns occasionally become stagnant on offense and fail to properly take advantage of their height mismatches. When Taylor isn’t getting into the lane, Texas can too easily become a jump-shooting team that is easy to defend.

    While they have the post depth to rival anyone in the nation, inconsistency of the offensive low post usage is cause for concern. With all their height, it should be easy for Texas to use their bigs for easy points should their jump shots not be falling. More often than not, Taylor will end up taking bad shots instead.

    Defensively, Texas fails to produce turnovers at a top rate, averaging four steals per game as a team. This may prove tough to overcome if Texas falls behind late and needs to force some turnovers to keep their season alive.

    Butler Wins If: Their defense hounds Taylor all day. The Longhorns run through the sophomore, but he is prone to turnovers and bad decisions. If the Bulldogs can stay in his face all day and prevent him from getting to the rim, he will force up some shots that Butler is content with.

    Texas Wins If: They crush Butler on the offensive glass. Butler is a great rebounding team in its own right, but Texas’ pure size in the post means that they should be able to prevent second chance opportunities for the Bulldogs and grab some offensive boards of their own. If Texas can convincingly out-rebound Butler, it won’t matter what kind of defense the Bulldogs play.

    Prediction: Texas. The Longhorns should throw an athletic defender at Dunham to bother him and disrupt Butler’s offensive sets. With Barlow busy checking Taylor, Texas’ big men will shine, bruising the Bulldogs in the post and leading the Longhorns to an upset victory.

    Next: NCAA Tournament Preview: Notre Dame vs. Northeastern

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