Since early March the Butler Bulldogs and UConn Huskies have been tested by dozens of teams with unique personnel and strategies to slow them down. And yet here they stand in the NCAA championship game.
Surviving the gauntlet of the NCAA tournament doesn't mean that either team is unbeatable, though. Using scouting data and film, I've broken down five key areas where Butler and UConn must perform to win.
Five things Butler must do to win
1. Keep Kemba Walker contained
Walker is like a great spread-option quarterback who can beat you with his scoring and his passing. So, not surprisingly, he has contributed (via scoring or assists) to 60 percent of the Huskies' points in the tournament so far.
The Bulldogs must build their defense early in transition so that Walker sees the front of all five blue Butler jerseys. By building a defensive wall, the Bulldogs can attempt to keep the 6-foot-1 junior from attacking the paint, where he can finish at the basket and create scoring opportunities for his teammates.
In addition, Brad Stevens' team must control Walker in all screen-and-roll situations by containing his dribble with the screener's defender. This is something the Bulldogs do in their sleep, especially since they defend their own ball screen offense every day in practice. Forcing Walker into tough shots is the key for a Butler defense that has improved every game during its current 14-game winning streak.
2. Force UConn to defend all 50 feet of the half court
No team in college basketball has the ability to stretch a defense like Butler can with its various screen-and-roll sets. Although the versatile Gordon Hayward is now in the NBA, Matt Howard has the ability to shoot the 3-point shot and the great driving and shooting ability of Shelvin Mack and Shawn Vanzant will put tremendous stress on the Huskies' defense. Closing out to both shooters and drivers will be a major challenge for UConn.
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