UNC vs. Butler prediction roundtable with the Campus Insiders staff. Breaking down what will happen between the Tar Heels and Bulldogs in their Sweet 16 matchup on Friday evening.
Butler had a solid showing in Milwaukee against Winthrop and Middle Tennessee, but North Carolina those teams are not. The Bulldogs will need everything they can muster against a Tar Heels team that seems poised to carry the ACC’s lone remaining torch all the way to Phoenix. Justin Jackson will be too much on the perimeter, and Kennedy Meeks gives UNC the advantage inside as the Heels move one step closer to the Final Four.
UNC really struggled with Arkansas — more than it should have. But to avoid that same trouble against Butler, the Tar Heels need to find more opportunities for Kennedy Meeks down low. Penetrate and lay the ball off for the big man. Let him get to the line. You can’t have a big dude like Meeks in the paint, with his ability to crash the boards, and have him only shoot two free throws. At the same time, Joel Berry II has to be better from deep. He shot 2-of-8 from three against the Razorbacks, and he has to be spot on from three to keep the pressure off North Carolina’s big men and keep the floor spaced.
If Butler can keep Meeks off the glass and force Berry into some contested threes and long two-point field goals, that will be a great start. Then the Bulldogs can focus on creating their own spacing on the offensive end of the floor and figuring out ways to get Kelan Martin some open looks. He’ll need to be locked in from behind the three-point line in order to give Butler a chance, but Andrew Chrabascz has to be efficient from the floor, too.
Ultimately, I think Chrabascz has a rough shooting night, and Meeks will continue to be a beast down low. So, I have UNC advancing.
Chris Holtmann made his third straight NCAA Tournament appearance since assuming the head gig at Butler, and he has the program in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2011, when the Bulldogs finished as the national runner-up for the second straight season. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels survived a scare against Arkansas, and they’ll be looking for a better performance from 3-point land. UNC shot just 5-of-17 from downtown, but don’t expect Joel Berry II (2-of-8) to struggle again.
While no one should ever count Butler out, the offensive rebounding advantage that UNC will have is going to lead to too many second-chance points for Butler to overcome. UNC marches onto the Elite Eight behind the play of Berry, Justin Jackson and its interior players. Will Holtmann then get a call from Indiana about its head-coaching vacancy?
We’ll keep this one short and sweet. It’s been a nice run, again, for Butler, but North Carolina is North Carolina. I just don’t see the Tar Heels losing until at least the Elite Eight.
Let’s face it: everyone outside of Indianapolis and Los Angeles wants to see a North Carolina-Kentucky regional final, especially the good people of Memphis who will be making some bank with those two fan bases coming to town. First, though, the Tar Heels and Roy “Droopy Dog” Williams must defeat Butler, and that in itself can be a problem. Luckily, Ol’ Roy has some daggum good players who can by golly win themselves a title. Tar Heels by double digits.