NEW ORLEANS -- A quick glance at the Butler-Wisconsin game:
Storyline: Butler is coming off two of the more dramatic wins of the NCAA tournament thus far, beating Old Dominion and Pitt on final possessions. The Bulldogs are attempting to make a run to their second straight Final Four.
Headline name: You can’t pick just one between these two teams. Wisconsin has two stars in Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer, while Butler also has a pair in Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack. Both are guard-forward tandems that can shoot and score in a variety of ways. The bigs are stocky and gritty, while the guards are like pistons who aren’t easily knocked over.
Who will blink first: Neither of the teams are turnover-prone. Wisconsin did have a rare double-digit turnover number (13) against Belmont, but had just five in the win over Kansas State. Butler had an unusual 15 against ODU, but then a more normal six in the win over Pittsburgh.
The toughest player on Butler to stop: Matt Howard.
“He’s a great player,’’ Leuer said. “He’s obviously a skilled big man that can stretch the floor and shoot it, but he’s also effective in the post. He’s physical and he moves his feet well. He does everything right, everything that you want a big to do. We’re definitely going to have our hands full.’’
The toughest player on Wisconsin to stop: Jordan Taylor.
“He’s a tough guy to guard,’’ Butler coach Brad Stevens said. “Jordan Taylor’s ability to get in the paint, to draw two guys, he’s got a 4-to-1 assist to turnover ratio. If you don’t respect him off a ball screen, you’re dead. He shoots 44 percent from 3, and he probably shoots 60 percent off the dribble from 3. You add all that together and he’s as good a point guard as we’ve played against this year.’’
Coaching value: If there is a calmer coach in the country than Brad Stevens, please give me a name. He never is rattled, regardless of the situation. As for Bo Ryan, he just continues to win, win, win, win.
Superstition: Stevens had a scare with his eyes a few weeks ago when he had a corneal edema from contact lenses that weren’t wearing well. He’s now 4-0 with his glasses on and doesn’t plan on taking them off anytime soon.
Glue guys: Wisconsin’s Mike Bruesewitz will be a key player in this game in some form. He goes to the boards, hits a 3-pointer and gets on the floor. The Bulldogs’ big Andrew Smith is unheralded, but hit the key bucket to beat Pitt before the end-of-game chaos. Smith is a grinder inside.
Who should win: Wisconsin has been much more consistent throughout the season and is arguably a better defensive team.
But...: The Badgers can go through serious scoring droughts, even with Taylor’s proficiency and the ability of Josh Gasser and Keaton Nankivil to make shots. Butler was one shot away from losing to Old Dominion in its first tourney game and one free throw away from losing to Pitt. But the Bulldogs find ways to win games.
What should you be looking for: If Shelvin Mack has another big night, like he did against Pitt when he scored 30 points, then the Bulldogs have a great shot to win. He’s a big-shot maker.
But if this is a last-possession grinder, then the Badgers may have the edge with more rebounders on the bench.