Defending Champion No. 1 Duke, Runner-Up No. 8 Butler Both Looking to Advance to Elite Eight for Second Straight Year

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March 24, 2011

Defending Champion No. 1 Duke, Runner-Up No. 8 Butler Both Looking to Advance to Elite Eight for Second Straight Year The first eight teams playing in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament should make for an entertaining Thursday night. 

Both of last year’s final two tourney teams, No. 1 Duke and No. 8 Butler, respectively, still have a shot of making the Elite Eight. The Blue Devils should have an easier time with No. 5 Arizona, but don’t count out Derrick Williams and the Wildcats. If Duke can get a Sweet 16 victory, though, coach Mike Krzyzewski will earn his 901st career win, leaving him one victory away from tying Bob Knight as the winningest coach in NCAA history.

The Butler Bulldogs will have their hands full with the consistent No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers, but senior Matt Howard and his teammates already knocked off No. 1 Pittsburgh 71-70 in the third round, so seeds don’t seem to matter to them. With Butler grabbing the attention of NCAA fans for the second straight year, who wants to bet against them?

Here’s a preview of the four Thursday night matchups opening the Sweet 16 round.

West

No. 3 Connecticut vs. No. 2 San Diego State (+1.5)
Honda Center, Anaheim, Calif., 7:15 p.m.
One thing to watch: UConn’s Kemba Walker and SDSU’s Kawhi Leonard are both leading their teams in scoring. Walker averages 23.5 points and 4.3 assists per game, and Leonard averages 15.4 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. The young UConn team will need to see its three freshmen starters — Jeremy Lamb, Tyler Olander and Roscoe Smith — step up if the Huskies want to advance.
 
No. 1 Duke (-8.5) vs. No. 5 Arizona
Honda Center, Anaheim, California, 9:45 p.m.
One thing to watch: The defending national champion Blue Devils have the best winning percentage (.762) in NCAA tournament history. The Wildcats will need to keep up with Duke from start to finish to upset the No. 1 seed, especially since Coach K said freshman Kyrie Irving will see significant minutes in the game.

Southeast

No. 3 BYU (+3.5) vs. No. 2 Florida
New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, La., 7:27 p.m.
One thing to watch: BYU’s unstoppable scorer, Jimmer Fredette, has scored at least 30 points in six of his last seven games for an average of 28.8 points per game. If Fredette gets into trouble with double coverage from Florida, BYU bench players must make the Gators pay.

No. 8 Butler vs. No. 4 Wisconsin (-4.5)
New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, Louisiana, 9:57 p.m.
One thing to watch: Butler senior Matt Howard made the winning shot in the last two victories for the Bulldogs, including the winning free throw with less than a second remaining to upset No. 1 Pittsburgh. Wisconsin should look for Howard to have the ball in his hands at the buzzer if this Sweet 16 matchup is a close game.

NESN’s college basketball coverage is presented by Bodog.net.

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