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Jeff Eisenberg

Know thy enemy: Opposing coaches size up Syracuse vs. Butler

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The Dagger asked an assistant coach whose team faced Syracuse and one whose team faced Butler to provide an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of their former opponent. The coaches were granted anonymity to assure honesty.

An opposing coach on Syracuse:

"When we played against them, we thought that team has as good a chance to get to the championship game and win it as anyone. Obviously the loss of (Arinze) Onuaku hurts, but if they get on a run, that's a team that can make it to Indianapolis ... They're so good at (the 2-3 zone), they're so long and they cover so much ground that it really changes the game. Their length forces you out to the point where your normal step-in threes are three or four feet longer ... (Wesley Johnson's) size, length and skill level makes him a tough matchup. Of all the guys I saw this year, he was one of the most impressive ... Onuaku's physical presence made him the anchor on the back of that zone, and his rebounding is something they miss. When they force teams to take perimeter shots, their ability to rebound the ball and get out in transition becomes very important ... Opposing teams must stretch the floor and make some threes and do a good job on the offensive glass to get some extra possessions. I think that's the two things teams are going to need to do against them to have a chance."

An opposing coach on Butler:

They're playing with swagger. I see them and I see a confident group that understands each other. Their rotations look solid and they defend like you can't believe. They're all over you, they're in the right spots, they help each other when they need it ... I think the biggest question mark they have is keeping (Matt) Howard out of foul trouble. They won their last game with Matt sitting on the bench almost the entire second half, but that's a big concern ... (Gordon Hayward) is so versatile. He understands how to make other guys better. Absolutely, I think he's a pro. Everybody who plays against that kid loves him. From what I can tell, he's a great player and an even better person. We all would want to have that kid on our team ... To beat Syracuse, they're going to have to play Butler basketball. They're going to slow it down and play defense and work the ball around for good shots on offense. They have enough shooters on the floor to be a threat against that zone.

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