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Game Preview: #1 UVA preps for #9 Butler in Midwest Region

march madness final four 2016Butler, the nine seed in the Midwest Region, will provide a tough test for top seed UVA on Saturday night.

The Bulldogs (22-10), who defeated eight seed Texas Tech 71-61 on Thursday, can shoot the ball (46.6 percent from the field), can hit the three (39.1 percent on the season), and they have an NCAA Tournament pedigree.

“Butler is a team that they don’t beat themselves, from what I know, and respect that program from what they’ve done in the past, how they play now,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said after his Cavs had dispatched #16 seed Hampton, 81-45, on Thursday in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

Four Bulldogs average double figures: Kellen Dunham (16.3 points per game, 42.8 percent three-point shooting), Kelan Martin (16.1 ppg, 6.9 rebounds/g, 37.9 percent three-point shooting), Roosevelt Jones (14.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 4.7 assists/g) and Andrew Chabrascz (10.1 ppg).

The defense has been … average. Butler opponents shoot 43.2 percent from the field, 34.0 percent from three and score 1.008 points per possession, according to adjusted defensive efficiency figures from, 111th in the nation.

Butler likes to push the pace: the Bulldogs average 68.9 possessions per game, more than seven per game more than UVA’s 61.2.

unitedrentalsVirginia senior forward Anthony Gill saw some of the Butler-Texas Tech game on TV, and remembers the game commentators “saying that they do get out and transition, but they also don’t turn the ball over as a lot much teams do when they get out in transition.”

“We just got to be back and packed and ready from the start,” Gill said.

The game tips at 7:10 p.m. Saturday. With North Carolina, the #1 seed in the South Region, playing the nightcap in the PNC Arena in Raleigh, you can expect a late-arriving baby blue crowd that will be waiting for the Cavs to stumble.

Win, and Virginia goes to its second Sweet 16 in three years, and is a weekend away from the program’s first Final Four berth since 1984.

Lose, and the critics who say the Cavs can’t win in March have more fuel for their unfriendly fire.

“I think the guys understand what’s at stake. And, again, they’re capable,” Bennett said. “You know, I always say you’re able but will you? And that’s what you got to answer once we get started.”

– Story by Chris Graham