The Dagger previews each of the Sweet 16 matchups. Here's our look at Syracuse-Butler.
No. 1 Syracuse (30-4) vs. No. 5 Butler (30-4)
Thursday, 7:07 p.m. EDT, EnergySolutions Arena (Salt Lake City, UT)
How they got here:
Syracuse: d. No. 16 Vermont, 79-56; d. No. 9 Gonzaga, 87-65.
Butler: d. No. 12 UTEP, 77-59, No. 13 Murray St., 54-52
Last Sweet 16 appearances:
Syracuse: 2009 (lost to Oklahoma)
Butler: 2007 (lost to Florida)
Match-up to watch: Butler G Shelvin Mack vs. Syracuse zone defense
Not to go Clark Kellogg on you and state the obvious, but Butler needs to hit its shots from the perimeter if there's to be any hope knocking off the top-seeded Orange. Mack, the team's sharpshooter who makes more than 40 percent from three, will need to create hit shot against a Syracuse defense that gives up more points from beyond the arc than any team in major college basketball. If Mack and teammate Willie Veasely (36 percent) are cold, Syracuse can focus on stopping Horizon Player of the Year Gordon Hayward in the paint.
Outlook: Syracuse likes to run in transition (48th nationally in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted tempo ratings), while Butler prefers to slow it down (No. 278 in the same metric). If this game is played in the 80s, the Orange win. If it's played in the 50s or 60s 'Cuse might still win, but the Bulldogs will have a much better shot at pulling the upset.
Prediction: It's a match-up of two of the most consistent teams in the country; Butler hasn't lost since before Christmas and Syracuse hasn't played a bad 40 minutes all season. Though Butler is more than capable of advancing to the Elite Eight and getting one step closer to a hometown Final Four in Indianapolis, Wesley Johnson and the Orange should prove too much to handle. Pick: Syracuse 72, Butler 59.