Commentary

How Butler can beat Pittsburgh

Commitment to defense and tourney experience make Butler a dangerous team

Updated: March 18, 2011, 11:08 AM ET
By John Gasaway | Basketball Prospectus
Matt HowardAP Photo/Michael ConroyIf Butler is going to beat Pitt, Matt Howard has to stay out of foul trouble.

If you watched the final seconds of Butler's dramatic 60-58 win over Old Dominion on Thursday -- and, unless you were stuck at work, of course you did -- you don't need me to tell you that Matt Howard is a handy guy to have on your team. Howard's putback with less than one second left on the clock gave the Bulldogs the win, leaving Butler with one small detail to attend to before proceeding any farther in the brackets: beat the No. 1 seed Pitt Panthers. I, for one, think Butler has a chance.

It won't be easy, of course, as Jamie Dixon's team wasn't seeded on the top line by accident. This year the Panthers were clearly the best team in the Big East. In a conference that put 11 teams in the NCAA tournament, that's saying something. And, anyway, it's extremely rare for a No. 1 seed to lose in the round of 32. It happened to Kansas last year, of course, but prior to the Jayhawks' loss to Northern Iowa you have to go back to 2004 to find the last time the top seed in a region failed to advance to the Sweet 16.

So why would I think a team that lost to Youngstown State can pull off what would clearly be a major upset? I believe that there are four reasons: