UM, Butler look to be pacemaker

Teams use contrasting styles to make run at Sweet 16 spot

Ncaa Tournament

March 17, 2007|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun reporter

Buffalo, N.Y. -- Butler coach Todd Lickliter said he had "a great feeling" about advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament - until he watched game film of Maryland.

"Then it kind of puts a damper on it a little bit," he said.

No. 5 seed Butler (28-6) has not faced an up-tempo team the caliber of No. 4 seed Maryland (25-8), and the contrasting styles of play will be evident when the teams meet at 3:20 p.m. today at HSBC Arena. Maryland likes to run and wear out teams with its press, while Butler is a possession-by-possession team, patiently waiting for the best shot while the clock winds down.

"Our styles do contrast big-time," said Butler guard Mike Green, a transfer from Towson who is averaging 14.1 points after sitting out last year per NCAA transfer rules. "We take what the defense gives us. If that creates fast breaks, quick three-point shots for us, we'll take them, if they're good shots. We just want to get the best shot every time down."

Both teams have obviously been successful with their respective systems, but should Maryland win this game, this group of players will advance into uncharted territory, as nobody on the team has ever advanced beyond the second round.

"This is the most important game of our careers," said senior guard D.J. Strawberry, who said he has a cold and played with chest pains in the first-round win against Davidson. "We are seniors and we have not gotten past the second round before. Having never been to a Sweet 16, we have a chance [today] and expect everybody to leave everything out on the floor. This is why we came to Maryland - to have this chance."

Lickliter said his team is "an obvious underdog in this situation," but the Bulldogs have a resume that caught the Terps' attention. There were high expectations for Butler, which garnered national respect early when it won the preseason National Invitation Tournament. The No. 21 Bulldogs have been ranked for a school-record 16 straight weeks, and held the No. 1 spot in the Rating Percentage Index for more than three weeks in November and December.

"I don't know how you can be in the Top 25 all year and be called a mid-major," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "They're a major. That's just a label."

Part of Butler's success can be attributed to its limited turnovers. Butler leads the NCAA with the fewest turnovers per game (9.4). Green said the team does "hundreds and hundreds of drills" for taking care of the ball.

"You've got to give credit to our big guys," he said. "They can get out there on that wing and handle the ball, and then you've got me and A.J. [Graves] handling it 90 percent of the time."

Williams said he doesn't want his team to be deceived into thinking that Butler is a "slow" team. The Bulldogs made nine three-pointers in their first-round win over Old Dominion.

"Butler is deceiving," he said. "They are patient in the half court, but in transition I don't think they're that patient. They get to the three-point line and shoot the ball in transition. I don't want my team to think that we are playing a team that really slows it up."

Still, Butler is 20-0 this season when holding an opponent under 60 points.

Maryland senior forward Ekene Ibekwe said he just wants the Terps to finish with more points than Butler. As soon as the buzzer sounds today and "we have more points than them," Ibekwe said, only then will the Terps let themselves think about the possibility of a matchup with No. 1 seed Florida.

"If you're human, you want to play the toughest team, you want to play the defending national champ," Ibekwe said. "At the same time, you have to take it one game at a time. We can't play Florida if we don't beat Butler, and we can't take Butler for granted."

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

ANOTHER SHOT AT INDIANAPOLIS

It's payback time, ba-bee! Those turncoat Colts dodged a Baltimore bullet in the NFL playoffs two months ago, but today Maryland has an opportunity to kick some Indianapolis tail when the Terrapins face Butler in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

THE SCHOOLS

The Bulldogs, whose campus is north of downtown Indy, play at Hinkle Fieldhouse, where Hoosiers was filmed.

Maryland, of course, has plenty of tradition of its own. The 2002 national champs used to play at Cole Field House, where Texas Western (now Texas-El Paso), with an all-black starting five, won its historic NCAA title in 1966.

THE TEAMS

Butler - with an enrollment of 4,200 - won whatever the basketball equivalent is of the Old Oaken Bucket by sweeping its intrastate rivals, Indiana, Purdue and Notre Dame, and was ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 for 16 consecutive weeks.

Maryland finished its regular season with a flourish, winning seven in a row before being bounced in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament by pesky Miami.

Butler, a No. 5 seed, beat Old Dominion; Maryland, a No. 4 seed, dispatched Davidson in the first round of this year's Big Dance.

THE COACHES

Butler's Todd Lickliter, in his sixth season, is 130-60.

The Terps' Gary Williams, in his 18th season, is 378-199.

Did you know?

Butler guard A.J. Graves is the third member of his family to help the Bulldogs advance to the NCAA tournament. Older brothers Matthew and Andrew were members of the 1997 and 1998 tournament teams. (Andrew also played in the 2000 tournament.) Just as long as they don't have a guy named Vinatieri making three-pointers.

FROM STAFF REPORTS

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