Butler Bulldogs vs. North Carolina Tarheels -9
Semi-Final Game: Maui Invitiational
Yesterday Butler provided the first thrilling moment of the tournament with Rotnei Clark’s stunning three pointer (almost a heave) at the buzzer gave them a one-point win over Marquette. Magic seems to follow this Butler team wherever they go, but let’s be honest, they are going to need a LOT of magic to knock off the once-again loaded North Carolina Tarheels.
North Carolina lost all five starters to professional basketball, including NBA first-round picks Tyler Zeller, John Henson, Kendall Marshall and Harrison Barnes, but doesn’t appear to be poised to fall off much this season. A big reason why is the early season dominance of James Michael McAdoo. The sophomore looked at time deferential last season, and despite his enormous talent, who can blame him for deferring to four first rounders with college hoops experience? This year, the team is his and he appears poised to enter the National POY conversation.
Carolina looked dominant yesterday, blistering an overwhelmed Mississippi State squad (who will struggle this season, but is still a BCS program – probably on par with Georgia who pushed Indiana for 32 minutes last night). They won 95-49 and held the Bulldogs to just 28% shooting from the floor. They will try to match that same tenacity against another pair of Bulldogs tonight.
I am trying to be reserved in my enthusiasm, but so far this is my favorite line of the young college basketball season. Butler gave a thrilling moment yesterday, but this is NOT the Butler teams you might have in your mind of two and three years ago. This is more akin to the Butler team of a year ago who missed the NCAA tournament; the same team that was pummeled on national television by a far from elite Xavier team just a week ago. North Carolina isn’t just better than them; they are A LOT better. If I were setting a starting line tonight it would be UNC by 13.5. I was stunned to see it in single digits.
I like the Tarheels to come out strong early and overwhelm Butler’s small guard with defensive pressure. Butler relies on making perimeter shots to loosen up defenses. I don’t see them getting open for clean looks against North Carolina’s defense today and I think big man Andrew Smith isn’t going to enjoy what’s waiting for him in Tarheel blue.
I like Carolina and I like them big over in Maui this evening.
Free Pick: North Carolina -9