Who: Texas Tech (19-12, 9-9) vs. Butler (21-10, 10-8)
Where: Raleigh, North Carolina, PNC Arena
When: Thursday, March 17, 11:40 a.m. (CT)
Radio: Texas Tech Sports Network
Notable: Butler is 15-0 when scoring at least 80 points. And Butler has crested the 80-point plateau in its last seven wins.
Quotable: “I've seen a little bit of Texas Tech this season, including when they were with us in Puerto Rico [Tip-Off] and I've been impressed with their toughness and their grit. This time of year, you are always across from a quality team."—Butler head coach Chris Holtmann on the Texas Tech Red Raiders
In Butler the Texas Tech Red Raiders will face one of the better college basketball programs in the nation over the last couple of decades. The Bulldogs have been to the NCAA tournament 13 times in the last 20 years, and in their last eight appearances made it to the Final Four twice, and to the Sweet 16 two other times. The vast majority of this success came under previous coach Brad Stevens who now coaches the Boston Celtics.
The current issue of the Bulldogs is yet another dangerous club. Butler has a raft of impressive wins, including victories at Cincinnati, over Purdue at a neutral site, at Seton Hall, and over Seton Hall again at home. The only bad losses came at Creighton and Marquette.
Butler is very efficient on offense, scoring 81 points per game, shooting 47 percent from the floor, 39 percent from 3-point range, and 73 percent from the free throw line. Additionally, the Bulldogs average 14 assists per game, while averaging only 10 turnovers per outing. This is a very solid offensive basketball team, and it will put Texas Tech’s shaky perimeter defense to the test.
Defensively Butler is somewhat more pedestrian, but by no means bad. The Bulldogs allow opponents to connect on 43 percent of their shots from the floor, and 34 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc. Butler’s opponents have averaged 13 turnovers and 10 assists per contest.
On the glass the Bulldogs own a plus-four rebounding margin, which should be another area of concern for Tubby Smith and his outfit.
Individually, Butler is powered by four primary players: Kellen Dunham, Kelan Martin, Roosevelt Jones, and Andrew Chrabascz.
Dunham, a 6-foot-6 senior guard leads the team in scoring at 16 points per game. He also shoots at a 43-percent clip from 3-point country.
Martin, a 6-foot-6 forward also scores 16 points per contest, while pulling down seven boards per outing and connecting on 38 percent of his 3-pointers.
Jones, a 6-foot-4 senior guard averages 17 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals per game, while connecting on 48 percent of his shots. He is the player who makes the Bulldogs go.
Chrabascz, a 6-foot-7 forward averages 10 points and four rebounds per outing.
Butler is a fairly small team, with 6-foot-8 Tyler Wideman the only true big man who averages double-digit minutes.
Texas Tech will provide an interesting contrast to Butler. Whereas the Bulldogs are a quick offensive team that plays at a rapid pace, the Red Raiders are larger and more methodical.
Tech scores a modest if respectable 72 points per game, shoots it at a 45-percent clip, 34 percent from distance, and 75 percent from the stripe. The Red Raiders have shot 146 more free throws than their opponents, and have made 134 more.
The Red Raiders are dead even in rebounding margin, and have blocked 130 shots on the season.
Just as Butler has four primary scorers, so too does Texas Tech. Toddrick Gotcher, Devaugntah Williams, Aaron Ross and Zach Smith all average 11 or 10 points per game.
Of that group, Gotcher is the long-distance marksman, connecting on 40 percent of his 3-balls. He also boasts a 3-to-1 assist/turnover ratio, and is tied for the team lead in steals with 32.
Ross is an 87-percent free throw shooter, while Smith shoots 51 percent from the floor, pulls down seven rebounds per game, and has blocked a team best 45 shots.
Of concern is Tech’s play of late. The Red Raiders have lost three of their last four games, and preceded those four games with a four-point home win over Big 12 cellar-dweller TCU. What’s more, those same Horned Frogs expelled Tech from the Big 12 tournament in the first round. For the Red Raiders to beat the Bulldogs they will have to regain their mid-February form, which saw them defeat national powerhouses Iowa State, Oklahoma and Baylor consecutively.