North Carolina (29-7, 14-4 ACC) vs. Butler (25-8, 12-6 Big East)
Memphis, Tenn. – FedEx Forum
Friday, 7:09 p.m.
CBS (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery)
“They didn’t get to the Sweet 16 by looking good. They can play. Brad Stevens coached the team when we played them in Maui and they killed us. Chris (Holtmann) does a great job. He’s one of the low key guys where people don’t realize what he does, but he does a great job… A big-time program with a lot of basketball tradition. They love their basketball and they play like it every night. We’ve got to play great.” – UNC head coach Roy Williams
“We’re going to be who we are. We’ve tried to be aggressive in transition. We’re not going to go into the game saying, ‘hey, let’s slow it down’. I think we have to understand what a quality possession offensively looks like and what it doesn’t against these guys. If you have too many poor offensive possessions against these guys, they turn that into points quickly.” – Holtmann
Heels Sweet Once Again: UNC has made it to the NCAA Tournament regional semifinals for a record 35th time. However, the road to Memphis and the Sweet 16 wasn’t without its bumps along the way. The top-seeded Tar Heels narrowly avoided an upset at the hands of Arkansas on Sunday. UNC outscored the Razorbacks 12-0 over the final 2:57 to rally from a 65-60 deficit. The Tar Heels outrebounded Arkansas, 45-32, including an 18-8 advantage on the offensive boards. Senior forward Kennedy Meeks had a standout performance, scoring a team-high 16 points and bringing down 11 rebounds. The win helped Roy Williams advance to his ninth Sweet 16 as head coach at UNC and his 18th overall.
Butler Advances: The fourth-seeded Bulldogs kicked off their 2017 NCAA Tournament journey with a successful weekend in Milwaukee. Butler cruised in their first matchup against 13th-seeded Winthrop, 76-64, on the back of 18 points from senior guard Avery Woodson and a stalwart defensive effort. Their Round of 32 matchup with Middle Tennessee proved to be more of a challenge. Kelan Martin scored 19 points off the bench to help the Bulldogs secure the 74-65 victory and their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2011.
Bulldog Spotlight: The days of Brad Stevens in Indianapolis are long gone, but Chris Holtmann has made this Butler team his own during his first three years in charge. The 2016-17 Bulldogs were a force in the recently revamped Big East, finishing second in the conference behind eventual No. 1 overall seed Villanova. Holtmann’s team has found success all year due to what can only be described as smart basketball. The Bulldogs offense rarely make a sloppy pass, ranking 10th nationally in turnover percentage (15.1). Butler has shot 47.9 percent from the field as a team this season, good for 32nd in the country. Holtmann’s squad ranks 21st nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency (117.9), per kenpom.com. Butler’s halfcourt defense has also been stellar this season, as evidenced by a top-50 adjusted defensive efficiency rating and its ability to limit opponents to 10.4 assists per game.
Quality Wins: Butler entered the NCAA Tournament with a superb resume of wins over notable teams in this year’s field. In the regular season, the Bulldogs beat Northwestern, Arizona, Vanderbilt, Cincinnati and Marquette, while also downing Villanova and Xavier each twice.
Martin Stays on Bench: The decision by Holtmann to have junior wing Kelan Martin come off the bench in early February was a curious one. The 6-foot-7 wing was leading the team in scoring and had his name in the middle of All-American discussions. Regardless, Holtmann decided, without a concrete explanation, that the Bulldogs would be better off with Martin in a sixth-man role. Even with the junior now in a reserve role, little has changed. He still leads the team in scoring (16.0 ppg) and rebounding (5.8 rpg), and was named Second-Team All-Big East.
Matchup to Watch: The Bulldogs are efficient in their methodical pace (54.8 percent effective field goal percentage), which will test the Tar Heels’ preference to get up and down the court. Butler ranks 289th in adjusted tempo (65.6), according to kenpom.com, and 292nd in total possessions (68.9). The Bulldogs have played in games with 70 or more possessions in 11 of their last 13 contests, indicating their ability to control pace. Oddly enough, the Bulldogs are 4-5 in games with 65 or fewer possessions, while UNC is 5-1 in such games.
Last Meeting: Butler defeated UNC, 74-66, in the Battle 4 Atlantis at Paradise Island on Nov. 26, 2014. The Bulldogs dominated the Tar Heels on the offensive boards, amassing 29, while knocking down five 3-pointers after halftime to rally for the victory. Martin scored 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting.
Series Record: The Bulldogs lead the all-time series, 3-2.
Projected UNC Starters:
2 Joel Berry (6-0, 195, Jr.) – 14.4 ppg, 3.7 apg
3 Kennedy Meeks (6-10, 260, Sr.) - 12.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg
4 Isaiah Hicks (6-9, 242, Sr.) - 12.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg
44 Justin Jackson (6-8, 210, Jr.) – 18.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg
1 Theo Pinson (6-6, 211, Jr.) – 5.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg
5 Tony Bradley (6-11, 240, Fr.) –7.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg
0 Nate Britt (6-1, 175, Sr.) – 4.7 ppg, 2.3 apg
32 Luke Maye (6-8, 235, So.) – 5.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg
Projected Butler Starters:
0 Avery Woodson (6-2, 190, Sr.) – 8.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg
3 Kamar Baldwin (6-0, 170, Fr.) – 10.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg
4 Tyler Wideman (6-8, 240, Jr.) – 7.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg
11 Kethan Savage (6-3, 205, Sr.) – 8.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg
45 Andrew Chrabascz (6-7, 230, Sr.) – 11.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg
30 Kelan Martin (6-7, 220, Jr.) – 16.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg
1 Tyler Lewis (5-11, 170, Sr.) – 6.5 ppg, 4.0 apg
51 Nate Fowler (6-10, 240, So.) – 5.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg