Butler's back, and the Bulldogs are heading to a second straight Sweet 16 and a date with Wisconsin in the 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket. But Brad Stevens' magic may not be enough against the Badgers, an extremely talented offensive team with more options than the Bulldogs have seen against Pittsburgh and Old Dominion. Wisconsin vs. Butler will tip at 9:57 p.m. Thursday from New Orleans on TBS, according to the 2011 NCAA Tournament schedule, and Gus Johnson and Len Elmore will be the announcers.
The Badgers have already taken a roundhouse in this NCAA Tournament: Jacob Pullen's bravura 38-point performance for Kansas State against Wisconsin was absurd and yet not enough, which should tell you something about Bo Ryan's team's ability to take a punch. But Wisconsin was underseeded at the No. 4 line, and is the favorite here: Keaton Nankivil, Jon Leuer, and Mike Bruesewitz will all be problems for Matt Howard, stretching the region he needs to cover, and if one or both heats up, the Badgers could win in a walk.
Butler's win against Pittsburgh may go down as one of the most insane victories in NCAA Tournament history: the Bulldogs allowed the Panthers to shoot a jaw-dropping 56.5% from the field, hit 12 of 27 threes, executed a brilliant go-ahead play with less than seven seconds left, survived a foul in the final second, and capitalized on one of the most inexplicable fouls in recent memory for a 71-70 win. What can the Bulldogs to do to top it? Well, beating Wisconsin might be better: the Badgers are second in offensive efficiency only to Ohio State, and only because of the so-ugly-it-should-never-make-it-to-DVD 36-33 loss to Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament. Count on Ronald Nored, Shelvin Mack, and Shawn Vanzant to get chances on Jordan Taylor, but doubt Butler's ability to keep up with the taller shooters on Wisconsin's roster. If Mack can heat up like he did against Pittsburgh, Butler's chances of making the Elite Eight increase — and, of course, there is Stevens' fantastic coaching, sure to steal points on one or two possessions, to contend with — but the Bulldogs enter this Sweet 16 game as underdogs. (They like it that way, though.)
Star Watch: Bruesewitz may be the funniest-looking Badgers — really, look at Bruesewitz' bushy, carrot-colored hair — but his game's meant for soft, appreciative chuckles. He hits the boards (statistically, he's Wisconsin's best offensive rebounder) and hits threes, and doesn't need to do much more than that.
Prediction: Why would you ever bet against Butler at this point? The Bulldogs pull another upset, thanks in part to some poor shooting from the Badgers, and get a 72-64 win to continue another brilliant NCAA Tournament run.