(1) Pittsburgh vs. (8) Butler
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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(1) Pittsburgh Panthers
A top four team in the tournament has never been upset by a 16 seed and the Pittsburgh Panthers kept that streak intact today by knocking off the North Carolina-Asheville Bulldogs 74-51. It wasn’t as easy as the score indicates, though. The Bulldogs played tough through the first 25 minutes, but only scored four field goals in the last 15 as the Panthers took up their defense another notch. Junior guard Ashton Gibbs was the star of the contest, scoring a game-high 26 points. As a team not only did the Panthers showcase their elite level defense, they destroyed the smaller Bulldogs on the glass 44-24 – including 19 offensive boards. That effort was spearheaded by senior center Gary McGhee’s 11 rebounds. Next up for the Panthers is last year’s Cinderella, the Butler Bulldogs. Slowing down their top two players of Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard is the biggest key for a Panthers’ victory.
(8) Butler Bulldogs
After making it all the way to the championship game last year you knew that the Butler Bulldogs were too talented and experienced to go out in the first round. They went up against another premier mid-major program in Old Dominion and fought tooth and nail with them all game long. Unsurprisingly it came down to the final seconds and it was Matt Howard’s offensive rebound and follow through that gave the Bulldogs the thrilling 60-58 victory. Now the Bulldogs will move on to face their toughest challenge of the year against the Pittsburgh Panthers. They won’t survive against them if they shoot 7-26 from beyond the arc like they did against the Monarchs, nor can they afford to turn it over 15 times again. Mack and Howard were solid with 15 points apiece, but they’re going to have to be even better against a Pittsburgh defense that is going to be focused in on them in particular. Every other Bulldog will have to step up as well.
HOOPSWORLD’s Pick: Pittsburgh. This isn’t last year’s Butler Bulldogs. They’re still a very good team, but Pittsburgh is too deep and relentless defensively for them to get by.
HOOPSWORLD’s 2011 previews were written by senior NCAA analysts Yannis Koutroupis and Luke Byrnes. 2011 March Madness coverage is sponsored by the United States Marines. To return to our preview headquarters, CLICK HERE.