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NIT Action! Butler vs Minnesota Preview

Normally I have no idea what to say when I start these articles. I have no idea if that ever became obvious. Either way, we have postseason ball in Hinkle Fieldhouse! And while I have spent, and will continue to spend, much more time on the NCAA Tournament, I want to give some thoughts on this game quickly.


I’m not going to write this as I normally would. This is going to be more “stream of consciousness” style, so I can get it out quicker and still do all the other March Madness content I’ve done.


It’s 1:10am as I’m writing this specific sentence, just after a show I did an hour ago. Anyways, no bull anymore, let’s get into some thoughts.

Jimmy’s and Joes:


I’ve watched Minnesota a couple of times this year. I had them very low in the preseason, and really think Ben Johnson did an excellent job with this team. I think they’re in a fairly similar situation to Butler, they were picked to finish bottom of the league, took a step up and are now very happy to see postseason ball. I think Butler long term is in a better position than Minnesota, but they’re both in a very similar situation.


Dawson Garcia is the name that sticks out. The former Marquette and UNC transfer has come back home and is a leader for this team. He’s incredibly talented and is playing like the former five-star moniker would have you think. The 6’11” F averaged 17.7PPG this season, scoring a lot of his points inside the arc. I would expect Telfort (Jalen Thomas too) to cover him today, which makes this an incredibly interesting matchup. Garcia is a force inside, and someone who could be a problem for just about any team going up against him.

Also, the PG matchup is impossibly intriguing to me. Elijah Hawkins was a player I was really high on at Dematha (after watching like two Jordan Hawkins games), and really liked at Howard. He’s a really undersized guard, but he’s lightning-quick and moves the ball really well. Hawkins finished second in the country in assists per game. He’s a small guard, but he’s really fast and is an excellent playmaker for others. Hawkins has very quick hands too, averaging 1.6 steals per game in the Big Ten. 


Hawkins against Alexander is an intriguing matchup. Posh is certainly the stronger of the two guards, but Hawkins’s speed could present Posh problems. Hawkins gets in the lane really well, Posh will have to stop him from getting into the lane and dishing out to the shooters Mike Meadows and Cam Christie. Alexander should be able to muscle him around, and I think that Posh should be able to cause problems with his physicality, but the speed and passing ability of Hawkins makes this matchup really intriguing. Hawkins was a really under-the-radar pickup, and I’m very happy to see him thriving in Minnesota.

Lastly, Minnesota was one of the best teams in the country against the spread. The Golden Gophers were underrated all season, and they finished 24-7 against the spread (should be 50/50). The Gophers also didn’t cover four of their five games, so before that they were incredible vs the spread before that. Don’t know how much that says about this game, but I think it’s noteworthy.


Data:


Minnesota’s offense is the best unit in this game. The Golden Gophers are a plain bad free-throw shooting team, but they shoot very well from anywhere on the field. They assist on just about every bucket, and move the ball as well as anyone in the country. Butler’s defense really stepped up to end the season, and will have to continue that run of form to win this game.


Minnesota is also pretty bad defensively. Their defense is the worst unit in this game. They run teams off the line mostly, but when opponents get looks from three, they make them at a very high clip. Opponents shoot 36.2% from three, ranks 324th in the country. Butler won’t get many looks from deep, but they should hit the ones that they do. Minnesota gives up a lot inside the arc, but they defend that much better. It’s not super easy to beat them inside, but you can do it. They rank 86th in defending inside the arc, but since opponents take the 10th fewest threes (in the country) against them, teams shoot a ton inside the arc. Lastly, Butler will have to move the ball to score. Minnesota gives up a ton of assists, which means their defense helps a ton, and you have to move the ball to beat them. Keep the ball moving, find the open man, and attack their offense that way. One on One ball will just not work in this game.


Butler will have to lock down Garcia, run some good shooters off the arc, make sure to get good looks from three and make Minnesota pay when they do, and keep the ball moving to win this one.


Some Thoughts:


I think Butler is just more talented. I don’t think Minnesota has a matchup for Pierre Brooks or Jahmyl Telfort. Minnesota doesn’t have the defensive size to contain those guys, which should lead to them getting good looks. I love Elijah Hawkins, and Dawson Garcia will cause problems, but Butler is just the better team here. Spots 3-6 favor Butler so much here. Contain Garcia, let Posh make Hawkins’s life hell and this is Butler’s game.


I’ve been much more focused on March Madness, and the bracket itself. Will still be following my Bulldogs, but this is March baby, let’s have a bracket. Once again, I’m very confident Chris and I had an excellent show, and it’s always nice to hear from takes from so many different, sharp people, so shoutout the show I did with the ECB Guys and our initial House Reaction Show, both will be linked right here. Great work, and I promise that all of us will be pumping out more, excellent content for your bracket. (sorry for self-promo, but don’t hate the player, hate the gameeee).





And let’s get ready for portal season. Aim to have an article out soon after the season ends, or after the first weekend of the NCAAT. Putting this out here, so I keep myself honest. But more importantly, catch a W against Minnesota.


(If anyone has any inside information on transfers or anything like that, holla at your boy. DM’s open. Always wanted to be a scoops guy (or just have my one big scoop then retire)).


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