(8) Butler vs. (4) Wisconsin
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(8) Butler Bulldogs
Few endings in the great history of the NCAA Tournament have been as wild and as crazy as the finish between the Butler Bulldogs and Pittsburgh Panthers in the Round of 32. Junior point guard Shelvin Mack was at his best, going off for a career-high 30 points including seven three pointers. However, he committed a serious error after his team took a 70-69 lead with three seconds left, fouling Gilbert Brown just before he was about to get off a tough half court heave. Brown only made one, though, and senior big man Matt Howard seized another opportunity to be the hero. He grabbed the defensive board, was subsequently fouled and knocked down the game-winning free throw to put the Bulldogs in the Sweet 16 for the second-straight year. They’ve got a date set with the Wisconsin Badgers, a tough defensive team who they’ll need big efforts from Howard and Mack against.
(4) Wisconsin Badgers
Just over a week ago the Wisconsin Badgers couldn’t score more than 33 points in a ballgame against the Penn State Nittany Lions. Now all the sudden they’re averaging 71 points a game in the NCAA Tournament after knocking off the Kansas State Wildcats 70-65. Their highly-touted defense could not come close to containing future pro Jacob Pullen as he went off for a game-high 38 points, but the Badgers showed that there is power in numbers. They had four players in double-figures to the Wildcats’ two, led by the 19 of big man Jon Leuer. Also key was their 45% shooting from beyond the arc (9-20). Their perimeter defense will have to improve against the prolific Mack and the battle inside between Leuer and Howard will be critical as well. The Sweet 16 won’t be the time for the Badgers’ offensive woes to creep back up.
HOOPSWORLD’s Pick: Butler. Both of these teams have surprised us and proved us wrong so far in the tournament, so it’s hard to pick against either one of them. But we’re going to go with Mack and Howard who are just very hard to beat at this time of year.