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Team Profile: 2008 Bracket Buster Preview: Butler vs. Drake

by Rob Carpentier | February 20th, 2008

Probable Starters:
Drake:
Leonard Houston – Sr. 6’3” 14.2 PPG 4 RPG
Josh Young – So. 6’1” 15.9 PPG 47% 3 Point Shooting
Jonathan Cox – Jr. 6’8” 11.4 PPG 8.4 RPG
Klayton Korver – Sr. 6’5” 9.4 PPG 87% FT Shooting
Adam Emmenecker – Sr. 6’1” 7.4 PPG 5.9 APG
Key Sub: Brent Heemskerk Jr. 6’8” 5.7 PPG 3.5 RPG

Butler:
Mike Green – Sr. 6’1” 15.1 PPG 6.3 RPG
A.J. Graves – Sr. 6’1” 13.8 PPG 35% 3 Point Shooting
Matt Howard – Fr. 6’7” 13.2 PPG 5.7 RPG
Julian Betko Sr. – 6’5” 4.9 PPG 38% 3 Point Shooting
Drew Streicher – Sr. 6’7” 4.3 PPG 2.2 RPG
Key Sub: Pete Campbell – Sr. 6’7” 11 PPG 44% 3 Point Shooting

Overview:

This is the marquee match-up of BracketBuster Saturday. The idea behind the entire event was to have as many mid-major teams that could realistically be looking at an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament as possible, face each other in what was supposed to be a resume-building game.

However, this game goes beyond that. Both Drake and Butler have built resumes so accomplished that this game has essentially turned into a game for seeding in the Big Dance rather than a possible elimination game. In many ways the two Bulldogs are mirror images of each other. Each has the same strengths and weaknesses, and each is under the tutelage of a young, first year coaches; Drake’s Keno Davis and Butler’s Brad Stevens.

Offense:
Both teams run essentially the same offensive schemes. It is a variation of the motion offense but requires the guards to both look to dribble penetrate and also be able to knock down jumpers off the inevitable kick-outs–very much the “dribble-drive motion” offense that has become in-vogue at the major college level. Both Memphis and Texas run variations of this offense, for example.

Butler is more experienced with the offense, as they have been running it since Stevens’ predecessor, Todd Lickliter was the coach. Drake, on the other hand, has been running this offense only since the start of the season. Davis’ predecessor, Dr. Tom Davis (Keno’s father), ran the offense on occasion last year, but under Keno, Drake has embraced it fully as their main system.

Butler makes the offense work because they are so adept at moving the ball. They are a superior passing team, and that’s where they have an advantage over Drake. To look at the stats, though, you’d think they were the same team. The main players all are roughly the same height and weight. Both teams shoot 45% from the floor and 38% from behind the arc.

Defense:
Both teams play very good defense, holding their respective opponents to around 60 PPG. They also hold opposing teams to below 45% shooting form the floor. A telling stat is that both teams do such a good job on defense without fouling. Butler has made 376 free throw attempts while only allowing the opposition 397 attempts. Drake tops even this statistic, hitting 366 free throws while only allowing the opposition 315 attempts.

Both teams will mix man-to-man and zone defenses, the difference being that Butler will give up open looks from behind the arc while Drake challenges everything. Much of this has to do with both the competition level and the teams’ relative athleticism.

The Horizon League is very good, but the Missouri Valley Conference is darn close to being a high major league in everything but name. Even this year, in a relatively “down” season compared to recent history, the league’s RPI is #8, behind the A-10, but ahead of the Mountain West, WCC, and yes, the Horizon.

This gives Drake an edge as they have seen tough competition night in and night out. Drake also has an edge in athleticism. When Butler has lost this year, it has been because the opposition has been able to close off the driving lanes that Graves and Green in particular are used to seeing. It didn’t help Butler earlier this year that Graves went through the worst shooting slump of his collegiate career.

Intangibles:
There are two things that could prove crucial in this game. The first is rebounding. Drake is clearly the better rebounding team and their prowess on the blocks on the defensive end is going to help them in this game. While not overly physical, leading rebounder Jonathan Cox always seems to get himself into prime rebounding position.

Butler is used to getting the key rebounds in close contests, but that may well not be the case here. The second is the “big game” theory. Butler is definitely more tested in games that have either been on television or have been against ranked opponents. This is a relatively new experience for Drake, who just clinched their first conference title since 1971.

Prediction:
With all the similarities, this is a tough game to call. Both teams will want to win to show the Selection Committee that they are worthy of a top-four seed come Tourney time. In a game this close, generally one should pick the home team. Hinkle Fieldhouse is the venue, so Butler is the pick…barely.

Butler 61, Drake 58

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