(2) Florida vs. (8) Butler
(2) Florida Gators
After riding its backcourt duo of Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton through the first weekend of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Florida hopped on the collective back of its front line to eek past BYU, into the Elite Eight, on Thursday night. While Walker and Boynton continued to provide ample scoring punch from the perimeter (their outside shooting forced BYU out of its zone defense), the Florida big men, senior Alex Tyus particularly, took advantage of an undersized and depleted BYU frontcourt, which struggled with the Gators athleticism and size while playing man-to-man. Tyus scored a team-high 19 points and grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds to help Florida avenge its double-overtime loss to the Cougars in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, 83-74, with an overtime win of its own. SEC Player of the Year Chandler Parsons has been tremendous throughout the first three rounds, averaging eleven points, seven rebounds and 7.3 assists per game. Against a methodical and disciplined Butler team, Florida will look to play an up-tempo game and challenge Butler to keep pace with the Gators high-octane offense.
(8) Butler Bulldogs
The early departure of lottery pick Gordon Hayward to the NBA following Butler’s surprising run the championship game of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, few expected Coach Brad Stevens’ team to duplicate that success this season; maybe not even within the Butler locker room. Through the first three rounds of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, however, the Bulldogs have executed offensively while playing stifling defense (and got a lucky break or two) while playing their way back into a regional final for the second consecutive season. Senior forward Matt Howard had his first double-double since Jan. 29, posting 20 points and 12 rebounds, as Butler knocked off Wisconsin, 61-54, in the Southeast Region semi-final. The Butler defense smothered the Badgers offense, allowing Wisconsin to shoot just 30 percent (17-56) from the field and 24 percent (7-29) from behind the three-point line. Butler must control the pace of the game and create turnovers (something Florida is susceptible to) in order to reach the Final Four for the second consecutive season.
HOOPSWORLD’s Pick: Florida. The Gators return all five starters from last year’s NCAA Tournament team and this talented squad, with depth and experience, has too much size and athleticism for a gritty, but overmatched, Butler team.