No. 4 Butler set to face No. 1 North Carolina in Sweet 16

The Butler bench celebrates during a game earlier this year in Hinkle Fieldhouse. Collegian file photo.


In their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2011, the No. 4 seed Butler Bulldogs will face the No. 1 seed North Carolina Tar Heels on March 24 in the FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee.

I haven’t been on twitter in a while.. but this calls for it! Memphis, I’m coming back!! #SweetSixteenBound,” graduate transfer guard Avery Woodson said on Twitter shortly after the team’s win over No. 12 seed Middle Tennessee on March 18.

Woodson, who transferred to Butler from the University of Memphis, spent two full seasons playing home games at Memphis in the FedExForum.

To reach this stage in the tournament, the Bulldogs beat the No. 13 seed Winthrop Eagles 76-64 on March 16 and No. 12 seed Middle Tennessee 74-65 on March 18.

Woodson shot the ball well from 3-point range as he was 8-of-14 from behind the arc over the two games. Senior forward Andrew Chrabascz scored double figures in each game with 12 points against Winthrop and 15 points against Middle Tennessee.

As a team, Butler shot a combined 50 percent from the field in the two games. When shooting a better field goal percentage than their opponent, as was the case against Winthrop and Middle Tennessee, Butler is 20-0 this year.

This hot shooting display allowed Butler never to trail in their first weekend of games. Butler head coach Chris Holtmann said he does not plan to significantly change his team’s offensive approach against the higher ranked Tar Heels.

“We’re going to be who we are,” Holtmann said during during the team’s weekly media availability. “We’ve tried to just be aggressive in transition. I think we have to understand what a quality possession offensively looks like and what it doesn’t against these guys, because if you have too many poor offensive possessions against these guys, they turn that into points quickly.”

Although this is Butler’s highest ranked NCAA Tournament team in program history, the Bulldogs opened up as a 7-point underdog against North Carolina, according to the betting website OddsShark. In fact, some national basketball analysts, including CBS Sports’ Seth Davis, felt lower ranked Middle Tennessee was a “lock” to beat Butler.

A friend texted Holtmann about CBS Sports Network’s prediction that Butler couldn’t contend with Middle Tennessee. Holtmann, known for being calm, cool and collected, kept it in as long as he could. But during his postgame press conference after the Middle Tennessee win, Holtmann let it all out.

“I don’t ever call those guys out,” Holtmann said. “I would love to, but I’m not going to. I didn’t show that to our guys, but to say that burned me up, it absolutely burned me up. As I said earlier to our team in there, as the late Joel Cornette said, ‘We are still here.’”

Indeed, Butler is still here, and it will be their seventh time playing a No. 1 seed in the tournament in program history. They are 2-4 in those matchups, including a 77-69 loss against the No. 1 seed Virginia Cavaliers in last year’s tournament.

However, the Bulldogs have fared much better against North Carolina. Butler leads the all-time series 3-2 and has won the last two meetings between the teams, which came in 2012 and 2014 on neutral site courts.

If Butler emerges victorious on March 24, they would face the winner of the No. 2 seed Kentucky Wildcats versus No. 3 seed UCLA Bruins on March 26 in Memphis.


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