It will be a tough matchup for the Bulldogs as Virginia is one of the top teams in the country and are a powerhouse on the defensive end.
We talked to Drew Goodman of Streaking the Lawn to learn more about Virginia.
1. Virginia blew out Hampton in the Round of 64, but are there any improvements the Cavaliers need to make?
Drew Goodman : It's hard to find error in a 36-point NCAA Tournament win, but Tony Bennett will be the first to tell you that there is still plenty of room for improvement. Yes, UVA shot the ball exceptionally well from beyond the arc and did a lot of good things on both sides of the court, but fans must consider the competition before they get too carried away. The 'Hoos ended the day on fire offensively, but the first ten minutes left much to be desired on that end of the floor.
Thanks to a few silly turnovers and several missed layups, UVA didn't really hit its stride until the last 5:30 of the first half. Virginia endured several brutally slow starts during it's early string of ACC losses back in January. A lot of those issues have been corrected, and the 'Hoos have the type of defense to compensate for temporary offensive lulls, but playing a full 40-minute game on both sides is always a concern.
2. What makes Virginia so good on defense?
It might be cliche, but it's the same reason why Louisville is so good at the press and Syracuse is so good at the 2-3 zone... You recruit to the scheme, you drill it in their heads every day in practice, and you implement it on game day. It took a little while to get the right personnel in place, but the program has consisted of 100 percent of Tony Bennett's recruits for the past three years, and the 'Hoos have won 87 games during that stretch. This season, four out of Virginia's five starters have been in this system for three years or more, and that fifth guy has come on strong in 2016.
Schematically, what Virginia wants to do on defense is simple... Keep everything in front of you, protect the paint, force opponents into difficult and contested shots, etc, but this is a well-oiled machine with many rotating parts. From hedging hard on screens to quickly doubling the post at the point of entry, this smothering brand of defense is designed to wear teams down in the second half.
Brogdon is an elite on-ball defender on the perimeter, and has seemingly shutdown everyone's best shooting guard/wing all season. UVA does not have the one top-notch rim protector that it has had in the past few seasons, but Anthony Gill is a physical presence inside, and Isaiah Wilkins is an emerging star in the low-block.
3. Is there any particular player on Butler you see Virginia having trouble controlling on offense?
As good as Virginia is on defense, the 'Hoos have been vulnerable against the long-ball at times this year. The defensive scheme calls for doubles in the post, and that can lead to open shooters on the perimeter. Butler has two guys that shoot the ball north of or close to 40 percent from beyond the arc, so that is obviously a concern.
Kellen Dunham is the type of annoyingly-good three-point shooter that has given Virginia fits this year, but Kelan Martin (38%) will also command attention from the exterior defense. Expect Bennett to sick Brogdon on Dunham, but Virginia must also be mindful of Martin when he is on the perimeter.
4. What makes Malcolm Brogdon so good?
There is a reason that nobody has never taken home both the ACC Player of the Year and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season. You just don't come across a complete player like Brogdon every day. Offensively, Brogdon can do it all... He can shoot, he can drive, and that step-back move of his has been unguardable all season.
His 6-foot-5 frame is a difficult matchup for smaller two-guards, which Virginia has taken advantage of for the past several years. While his offensive highlight reel might not be as exciting as other big-name players in the country, Brogdon's "old-man game" is exactly what Virginia's deliberate offensive scheme calls for, and has driven opponents crazy all season.
I touched on his defense earlier, but the casual observer might not appreciate what Brogdon has done on that side of the floor. Instead of looking at stats for steals/blocks/etc, let's take a look at how some of his opponents have fared this year... Louisville guard Damion Lee, who few people were able to figure out all season, combined to shoot 5-20 and never reached double figures in his two games against Brogdon this year.
The ACC's leading scorer Cat Barber was held to just 4-11 shooting against Brogdon's vice grip defense last month. Most recently in the ACC Tournament, Georgia Tech's Marcus Georges-Hunt, who was coming off of a 28-point performance the night before, managed just seven with Brogdon guarding him. His basketball IQ is off the charts. Even if his shot isn't falling, Virginia fans know what they will be getting from Brogdon on the defensive end on most nights.
In short, Brogdon is the personification of what UVA wants to do on the basketball court and in the classroom, and will go down as one of the most beloved players in program history.
5. X-Factor and Prediction
I look at two X-factors here...
No. 1: How well can London Perrantes hang with Roosevelt Jones? Virginia should have the size advantage at every position except for the point guard matchup. Jones is two inches taller than Perrantes, and outweighs his UVa counterpart by over 30 pounds. Perrantes has gotten much better at keeping his opponent in front of him over the years, but he must prevent Jones from getting to the lane and pushing him around.
No. 2: Can Butler establish anything down low? Between Jones' ability to get to the lane, and Martin's physicality in the paint, the Bulldogs certainly have options, but there is nothing really concrete to worry about inside the paint. If Gill and company can keep Martin off the glass, and force Butler to be a jump-shooting-only team, the 'Hoos won't have to focus as much on trapping the post, and will be able to cut off potential open shooters from beyond the arc.
The rebounding battle will be key as well. Both of these teams have plenty of guys that can shoot the ball, and limiting one another to just one opportunity on offense will be crucial.
I see this being a close battle for most of it, but the Bulldogs don't see this type of defense every day, and their fatigue will cause some of the shots that they usually make to fall short in the second half.
I'm going with a 70-61 UVA win.
Thank you so much to Drew for taking time out to answer these questions.