Butler must tame quirky MTSU zone
Janice Sanchez | March 19, 2017, 1:04
Butler must tame quirky MTSU zone
"Our RPI is like 35th and everybody says you need to play a good non-conference schedule, our strength of schedule was 18th and we won 30 games". That all changed in 2010 when the team made a Cinderella run to the National Championship game. "They're a good team and will come out firing on all cylinders, but we're just anxious about preparing ourselves".
In the 15 seasons Davis has coached Middle Tennessee State, four different men have led Butler to the NCAA Tournament.
After knocking off No. 2 seed Michigan State, one of the favorites of the 2016 NCAA Tournament, in last year's insane first round, many believed that the Blue Raiders were under-seeded at 12 this year. This time, the victim was 5-seed Minnesota. In reference to Middle Tennessee State, third-year Bulldog coach Chris Holtmann felt just as strongly about Davis' team, and if you look at the Blue Raiders' resume, it isn't just respectful hyperbole on the part of Holtmann. I'm picking Butler -4 in this matchup and I'm positive that's where the smart money will be. They got away with it for the most part throughout the season due to their defense, which held opponents to a Big Ten-low 39.8 percent shooting. I don't see a difference.
MTSU has ridden its defense all season long. And when they did have more of a marquee showdown (68-63 over UNC Wilmington; 71-48 over Vanderbilt; three-point loss to VCU) the Blue Raiders handled themselves well. "He's a load", Holtmann said of Williams. "We're going to use (Thursday's loss) as motivation in every drill and every practice to try to get back here". "Our spacing needs to be good and our decision-making with the ball needs to be good because they are great at turning you over". "When we're stationary playing a little bit one on one, that's when we're hurting ourself". "They keyed in on it". The Blue Raiders used a 1-3-1 zone on some possessions and switched to a 2-3 zone on others. "They do it because they defend it so well". And their guard depth was so depleted by the end of the season that Pitino had few options to relieve his three starting guards, admitting Thursday, "We ran out of gas".
Middle Tennessee built off that upset by storming through Conference USA for a league record 17 wins and setting the single-season school record for overall victories. Upshaw is another 6-8 forward that can score and rebound, averaging 14.6 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game. Reggie Upshaw led the team with 19 points on 7 of 13 shooting with a team-high 9 rebounds, while Giddy Potts came 2nd with 15 points on 4 of 9 shooting with a pair of tripled and a share of the team lead with 5 assists. "It's similar to a Big East team". The only scare the Bulldogs have experienced in this game was when their leader in scoring and rebounding this season, Kelan Martin, briefly went down to what appeared to be a knee injury. Lynch was upset with the officiating, but those calls weren't made because of his reputation - and they're not the reason Minnesota lost.
"They're both very skilled and versatile", Chrabascaz said. There are obviously going to be some 1-on-1 situations, but at the same time we have to make sure we're in the gap and helping each other out.
This time around, the Blue Raiders are looking to make some more noise and reach the program's first ever Sweet 16.
In order to do that, they have to just focus on what they can control in front of them.