Southeast Region: (8) Butler Bulldogs Vs. (2) Florida Gators

(8) Butler Bulldogs vs (2) Florida Gators
Mar 26, 2011 at 4:30 PM EST
Opening Line:  Florida -3.5
Current Line:  Florida -4
Opening Total:  131.5
Current Total:  133
Opening Moneyline:  Fla -150 / But +130
Current Moneyline:  Fla -195 / But +165

Shelvin Mack and Butler will take on the second seeded Gators today

Don’t call it an upset.  Butler has been “upsetting” people all tournament, and indeed over the last 10 years, to continually be the team that no one expects showing up in the sweet 16 and Final 4 on a regular basis.  There have been a lot of disappointments, but also a sense of pride in showing more as a program than anyone could have expected.  “The cool part is—our guys—it’s not above their imagination,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said of Butler’s continual “upsets,” “It’s just what they think that we have to do next.”  If Butler can win tonight against the higher seeded Gators, they will be back in the Final Four for a second straight season and maybe not catch everyone off guard next year.

Florida Coach Billy Donovan isn’t suprised as it is.  “Butler has proven that they’re as good as any program in the country,” Donovan said. “You don’t get to a national championship game or the amount of sweet 16s they’ve gotten to by just being a Cinderella story. That doesn’t happen year after year.”  Certainly, to call a team with Butler’s track record a Cinderella Story would be a slap in the face to Bulldogs, who have now showed they definitively have what it takes to succeed in March.

Some betting trends:

Florida is 7-1 SU in their last 8 games and the total has gone OVER in 9 of Florida’s last 11 games.

Matchup Stats:

Butler overall scoring 72.06
Florida overall defense 63.08

Butler away scoring 68.17
Florida home defense 62.42

Butler road rebs 33.56
Florida home rebs 31.42

Florida home scoring 73.08
Butler road defense 65.11

Florida home rebounds 37.71
Butler road rebounds 32.78

Florida sports a balanced attack that is very lethal.  They have four starters (Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, Vernon Macklin and Chandler Parons) that have averaged double figures.  The one who didn’t average double figures, Alex Tyus, managed to score 19 against BYU while grabbing 17 rebounds.  Leading scorer Erving Walker has scored 18, 21, and 16 points this tournament, an 18.3 point per game average, a full 3.5 points higher than his season average.  He scored in double figures in all but 6 Florida games, but the Gators were 5-1 in those 6 games in which he scored less than ten, anyway.  Kenny Boynton, a 6’2″ sophomore guard, has averaged 14 points per game in the tournament and put up 17 against Butler, though he did shoot just 5 of 14 from the floor.  If Boynton and Walker can manage to get quality shots, it will go a long way towards ensuring a Gators victory.

Butler’s duo of Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack are going to receive most of the attention for Butler, and rightfully so.  Both are the only players on Butler to play more than 30 minutes a game on average and to average in double figures in pionts with 16.7 for Howard and 15.6 for Mack.   Howard, a 6’8″ senior forward, also averages a team high 7.7 rebounds per game.  Howard recorded 8 double doubles this year and Butler was 5-3 in those 8 games.  Mack, a 6’3″ junior  guard, leads the team in assists per game with 3.6 a game and putsu p 15.6 points per game.  He shot 35.1% from three this year (74 of 211), but his overall field goal percentage was a bit low at 40.8%.  Butler will obviously rely heavily on this duo and if even one of them suffers an ankle sprain or gets in foul trouble, Butler will be in serious trouble.

Truly, Florida’s depth might make the difference.  Their balanced attack leaves them less vulnerable to foul troubles and injuries so they can more afford to have a player have a set back as such.  Butler is an outstanding team, but there is a reason why Florida is favored, even if ever so slightly.

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