3) Connecticut Huskies vs. 8) Butler Bulldogs
Projected Winner (Pomeroy): Connecticut 69-65 (70%)
Both of these teams played a game on Saturday that they'd like to forget. UConn's sterling defense on Kentucky, coupled with John Calipari forgetting what an offensive gameplan is, let the Huskies overcome some very poor shooting to get past the Wildcats. Butler outlasted VCU's Jamie Skeen and company mainly on the inside, where their bigs were able to crash the offensive glass and they were able to create a lot of free throw attempts.
One of the reasons to like UConn in this game is that Jim Calhoun's group is running an excellent pick-and-roll game lately. They decimated Kentucky with it, and scored at will out of timeouts in the set. I think Butler will be a little more prepared for this, and if they are and the Connecticut offense plays like they did against Kentucky again, that could be a very bad sign for the Huskies championship hopes.
Butler will likely not enjoy the same sort of rebounding edge it did against the Rams, as the Huskies have them on pure height inside, if not technique. The Bulldogs will likely shoot better than they did against VCU though, and Connecticut won't run the press that gave Ronald Nored and company such problems in the first half on Saturday.
I see compelling reasons to like both teams to win this game. I don't think Butler has anyone who can actually check Kemba Walker, but I don't think the Huskies have anyone who can stop Shelvin Mack from getting his points either. Connecticut's bigs will likely slow down the Butler interior offense, but Butler shoots more threes than the average team anyway.
So in a close game, I'm taking the more balanced team. Connecticut's offense has really come on during the tournament, but they stunk it up pretty badly on Saturday. I'm not sold on their ability to hit outside shots, and unless they're grabbing a lot of offensive rebounds, I don't think they'll be particularly great tonight outside of Walker. That leaves the door wide open for Brad Stevens and the Bulldogs, who have overcome better defenses than UConn's on this run. Stevens will prove his worth once again by outmaneuvering Calhoun, and the Big Conference party will officially be crashed tonight.
Butler 67, Connecticut 63