Drake at ButlerHinkle Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, IN (ESPN BracketBusters)5:00 PM EST
If you've been reading along this year, this game needs no introduction. It's the two best chances we here at the mid-major level have for deep NCAA runs, No. 1 (Drake) and No. 2 (Butler) in our . They are so similar -- both are the Bulldogs, both wear blue and white, and both rely on the kind of old-school fundamentals that were thought or considered lost and insignificant. But they really are two different teams, and this will be your first chance to see them together on the same floor. And if you don't have a ticket, you'll get to watch along on ESPN2.
One point we haven't made yet -- or at least pounded to death -- is that Drake 2008 is eerily reminiscent of Butler 2007. Both are (or were, in one case) height-challenged teams that rely on their guards to jump into the thicket for rebounds. Both kept the turnovers miraculously low, not coughing it up more than 10 or 11 times a game. And both didn't/don't shoot particularly well. You're welcome to compare the statistical profiles of B-Bulldog mega-guard Mike Green
and D-Bulldog Leonard Houston
, even though Green gets a lot more pub. And Butler's A.J. Graves
might be a brother from a different mother with Drake's super walk-on Adam Emmenecker
-- both don't look very much like ballplayers, but you could give the ball to either if your basketball life depended on one shot -- you could feel pretty confident you'd live to see tomorrow.
Which leads us to the point that we have
pulverized to a pulp. Butler 2008 is much better than last year's version, and it's because of a vastly improved inside game. All due respect to the bigs that made last season's team hang tough all the way to the Sweet 16, but Matt Howard
is a huge difference-maker on this squad. With 12.8 ppg and 5.7 rpg, the Hoosier State frosh gives the B-Bulldogs the paint threat last season's team never had. The X-factor is the 6-8 Drake senior who will likely be guarding him all night, team rebounding leader Jonathan Cox
(11.6 pg, 8.3 rpg). We have the feeling that whichever player gets the better of that matchup will lead his team to victory.Basketball State Preview/Box