South Regional: No. 4 seed Butler vs. No. 1 seed North Carolina
One big key to the Tar Heels’ success has been rebounding. The Bulldogs have struggled on the boards this year and are 323rd in the country in rebounds per game (32.2), while the Tar Heels lead the country in rebounds per game (43.8). North Carolina outrebounded its first two NCAA tournament opponents 99–59. The Tar Heels have not been outrebounded over their last 10 games.
An important stat for the Bulldogs is three-point shooting. So far Butler has the fourth-best three-point shooting (47.1%) in this year’s March Madness of any team who has played at least two games.
What makes the Bulldogs special? “It’s how deep we are and how connected we are as a team on and off the floor,” senior guard Tyler Lewis said. “We have a group of guys that believe in one another.” Another thing that makes Butler special is the team’s upset potential. This season, the Bulldogs beat defending national champion Villanova both times they faced the Wildcats and shouldn’t be overlooked in this matchup.
And what might give North Carolina the edge? History. The Tar Heels have gone to the Sweet 16 seven times in the last decade. They’re 6–1 in those games and have gone on to three Final Fours in that time.
North Carolina and Butler will play at 7:09 p.m. ET on Friday, March 24.
Purdue will depend heavily on its big guys, especially Caleb Swanigan, facing a Jayhawks team that starts four guards. Swanigan has 28 double doubles this year and has had a double double in both of the tournament games.
While Purdue runs somewhat of a one-man show, Kansas is very balanced. The Jayhawks have five players averaging double-digits in the tournament, and two players are averaging 20 or more. KU’s points can come from anybody.
Purdue must keep Kansas from going on runs, like the 32–13 run the Boilermakers allowed Iowa State to go on in the second half of their game. Purdue is known for being steady with its scoring, while the Jayhawks are known for their explosive runs, like the 21–6 run Kansas went on to end the game against Michigan State in the second round.
Purdue’s room for error is much smaller, and Swanigan must control the paint for the Boilermakers. If Purdue allows Kansas to speed the game up and get up and down the floor, the Jayhawks could score 90 or more for the third game in a row. This game is taking place in Kansas City, so a friendly crowd could give Kansas a major advantage in this Sweet 16 matchup.
Purdue and Kansas will play at 9:39 ET on Thursday, March 23.
Photographs by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images (2)