It’s no secret that the Butler Bulldogs had a disappointing 2018-19 season, ending the year below .500 for the first time in nearly seven years. While the Bulldogs will be watching the Final Four from the couch like the rest of us, two pairings of elite college basketball teams will be taking center stage in Minneapolis. Virginia is the lone one-seed, but Michigan State, Texas Tech, and Auburn can all still stake their claim as the best team in the country. Each team took a different path to the Final Four and each team has key differences that separate themselves from everyone else in college basketball. Here are four key things that the Final Four teams possess that Butler lacks.
Virginia: Tony Bennett’s Pack Line Defense
Since Tony Bennett took over the Cavaliers in 2009, no team in the country has displayed a similar type of defensive dominance. In fact, since his fourth season at the helm of Virginia, his teams have been in the top ten of defensive efficiency all but one season. The secret behind Bennett’s wizardry is his so called “Pack Line Defense”. This system lives by two principles: Limit fast breaks and deny in-the-lane penetration. While this seems simple, it’s extremely hard to execute game after game – let alone year after year. Basketball is a game of runs and fast break opportunities tend to spark large one-sided scoring bursts. Virginia sacrifices offensive rebounds (12th in the ACC) so that they can get back and limit in-transition baskets. Offensive penetration also seems like a simple thing to stop, but over-helping and allowing shooters to get open on the perimeter is a serious problem if not done right. Much too often this year, Butler allowed shooters to have open shots due to too much aggression in the paint. Butler allowed nearly 36% of opposing three point shots to go, which trails only DePaul for worst in the Big East this season. With the Pack Line system, Virginia’s opponents shot just 28% from three.
NEXT: Michigan State