Florida's history of silencing Butler in the NCAA Tournament is enough to halt even the most vocal of Bulldog fans. The Gators opening round overtime win 2000 catapulted them to a Final Four run and in 2007 they dropped Butler again in the Sweet 16. Don't think for a second that Billy Donovan and Co. are taking this one lightly though.
The days of calling Butler a Cinderella story are over. Brad Stevens may still be a young coach in years, but he is continually proving himself as one of the games greats. Some may try to still play this one off as David vs. Goliath, the SEC vs. the Horizon League, but Butler deserves better than that. To these players a loss won't yield any silver lining, there won't be talk of a good run. This team has eyes for a second straight Final Four, something Florida knows all about.
Follow after the jump for an advanced statistical breakdown of both teams.
To a much greater degree than Florida, Butler relies heavily on its stars. Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack have accounted for 45% of the team's total points this season with no one else on the roster accounting for greater than 12% total. Along that same thread, these two have dominated the total possession distribution, combing for just over half of the teams total offense. It speaks volumes to the job that these two do protecting the basketball when the majority of the time the ball is in their hands and the Bulldogs rank 29th in the country in turnover rate at just over 17%.
The Bulldogs spread the ball to a greater degree when examining offensive sets as we can see below.
Though spot-up attempts have clearly made up the majority of the teams possessions this season (21.3%) but Butler has shown the ability to adapt when needed depending on the opponent. In Thursday's Sweet 16 win over Wisconsin the Bulldogs totaled just 7 spot-up sets out of 71 total offensive possessions, shooting well below their regular season mark of 36% from beyond the arc. Matt Howard has been the team's primary option with Shawn Vanzant serving as a close secondary scorer here, but Shelvin Mack controlled this play type in the Wisconsin win. Where Butler did go to time and again was the post and isolation sets, two scenarios that made up just 16% of their offense during the regular season but nearly one-third in their last game. Call it a case of the Bulldogs going with what works best in a crunch time situation. Mack has been an extremely efficient iso scorer all season, ranking in the top 15% nationally, and the Bulldogs went to him continuously in this set, despite struggling against Wisconsin. Howard on the other hand dominated and controlled the post, accounting for a majority of the teams touches here on his way to a 20-point game.
The Gators have a significantly greater degree of distribution as far as the scoring load is concerned. Erving Walker, Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus, Kenny Boynton and Vernon Macklin have all accounted for between 12% and 20% of the teams points this season, with Walker leading the way. Thursday's overtime win over BYU was a perfect example of how tough Florida can be when sharing the basketball as four players reached double figures in scoring (Macklin at 9), with 23 of their 31 made field goals being assisted.
The Gators, like Butler, show a fair degree of diversity in the manner that they score, but add a bit more weight to their top three or four offensive sets as far as usage is concerned. They are well above average scoring the basketball in spot-up, post-up and transition sets, producing an adjusted field goal percentage of over 60 when running the break, speaking to the teams ability to find open shooters on the perimeter while the defense recovers. The only significant change to this breakdown that occurred in the Sweet 16 was a rise in the frequency of pick and roll sets the Gators ran against the BYU defense. Of the team's 88 possessions, 31 were out of the pick and roll set, well above the regular season average of a 14% usage rate in these plays (including shot attempts by either the ball handler or screener). Much of this has to do with the fashion in which the Cougars were defending Florida, but the Gators might be wise to continue using this play at a high rate, particularly with their physical advantage in the frontcourt and the manner in which Butler has struggled to defend the screener rolling to the basket on these plays.
Offensive Strengths vs. Defensive Weaknesses
Butler has not run a lot of isolation sets this season, but when they have the results have been excellent. The Bulldogs shoot 39% out of this play type which puts them in the 88th percentile nationally. Here's the catch however, Mack and Howard are the two best scorers in this set, which just so happens to be the positions that Florida can likely defend the best. Kenny Boynton is a strong defender who can match up with Mack while Howard will have to contend with a deep, athletic Gator frontcourt when he isos. With that said, Florida has really struggled against isolation sets this season, allowing an adjusted field goal percentage against of nearly 50%, which puts them among the worst teams in the country.
Florida has a decided advantage as far as how their strengths match up with Butlers weaknesses. The Gators are well above average at scoring in the post and in transition - play types they go to quite regularly - while the Bulldogs have struggled all season defending here. Again much of this stems from the athleticism and match-up problems Florida can create with players like Parsons floating around and the super tough Tyus working inside.
Florida ranks 15th in the country in offensive rebound rate while Butler is 19th in offensive rebound rate allowed. One of these has to give today and with the sheer number of bodies the Gators can send out in the frontcourt, chances are Billy Donovan's team will have the edge in this regard. Controlling the number of second chance scoring opportunities at this end of the floor (when Florida is on offense, Butler on defense) will go a long way to determining the outcome of this game.
*Data in charts provided by Synergy Sports Technology