NCAA Tournament Preview: #4 Butler vs #13 Winthrop
March 16th at 1:30, TNT
Player to Watch: Kelan Martin (16.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.1 APG)
Martin has been the Dawgs’ leading scorer all season and has come up big against tournament-caliber teams. In their win against Northwestern, Martin had 22, in their win at Villanova he had 22, in their win at Xavier he had 25. Look for this trend to continue against Winthrop.
X Factor: Containing Keon Johnson
Butler has struggled in the past to stop elite guards from taking over games. They let Shamorie Ponds go off for 26 points in their loss to St. John’s. Mo Watson put up 21 and seven assists in their loss to Creighton. Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett basically single handedly took the Dawgs out of the Big East tournament, scoring 23 points and getting to the basket (and foul line) with ease. In this game, Butler will have to stop Winthrop’s star guard Keon Johnson from taking over the ball game.
Player to Watch: Keon Johnson (22.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.6 APG)
5’7” Keon Johnson might not look like much, but on the court he is a beast. The Senior guard is a three point machine, hitting an average of three long balls every game. He has seven 30-point performances this season and is a huge factor for the Eagles’ offense. He will have to carry them to victory over this strong Butler team.
X Factor: Forcing Turnovers
Butler is one of the best teams in the country at taking care of the basketball, but the Eagles force an average of 13.6 turnovers per game. In all but two of Butler’s losses this season they have had double digit turnovers. If Winthrop wants to come up with an upset over Butler, they will have to bother the Dawgs’ ball handlers and create some transition offense via giveaways.
Key Matchup (Xavier Cooks vs Andrew Chrabascz)
Winthrop’s Xavier Cooks is a scoring and rebounding machine. He averages over 16 points and nine rebounds per game, but only stands 6’8” tall. Butler big man Andrew Chrabascz stands just short of 6’8” and is beefier than Cooks, but is also a big time scoring option for the Bulldogs. The battle between these bigs should be back and forth and extremely entertaining.
Keon Johnson has 99 made three pointers this season. The next best shooter from deep based on makes on either team is Butler’s Avery Woodson with 65. The three ball should be a big factor in this game, especially for Winthrop.
Prediction: Butler (76), Winthrop (69)
Butler has performed well against great teams and poorly against average ones. With this being said, they have had a full week to rest and prepare for this game after getting knocked out of the Big East Tournament by Xavier, so I think they will be ready for the Eagles. Winthrop’s guard play will keep them in it early, maybe even leading at some point, but in the end Butler’s defense will prevail and the Bulldogs will advance. Make me eat my words Keon Johnson.
Photo Credit: Big East Coast Bias