The North Carolina Tar Heels are on upset alert entering the Sweet 16.
One might be wondering why. After all, the Tar Heels were one of the best teams in college basketball during the 2016-17 season, and they have a No. 1 seed in the 2017 NCAA tournament to prove it.
If you are looking for a reason behind this upset theory, then look no further than their opponent, the Butler Bulldogs.
Butler is no stranger to improbable runs in the Big Dance. We are talking about a team that made back-to-back title games not too long ago. Brad Stevens is no longer the head coach, but that hasn’t mattered — the Bulldogs have still been relevant in college hoops, and they have even joined the mighty Big East in recent years.
There is nothing mid-major about the Bulldogs, and if fans are looking for a reason why they will take down North Carolina (aka a powerhouse in college basketball), then let the reasons below be your guide.
Butler’s Wins During The Regular Season Are — In One Word — Absurd
During the regular season, the Bulldogs knocked off — are you ready for this? — the Arizona Wildcats when they were ranked No. 8, the Cincinnati Bearcats when they were ranked No. 22, the Indiana Hoosiers when they were ranked No. 9 (reminder: Indiana started the season off hot thanks to wins over the Kansas Jayhawks and UNC), the Villanova Wildcats when they were ranked No. 1, the Xavier Musketeers when they were ranked No. 15, and Villanova again when it was ranked No. 2.
Are you not entertained, college hoops aficionados? Does Butler’s quality wins not compel you?
Leading Scorer Kelan Martin Is The Real Deal
Kelan Martin is leading the Bulldogs in the scoring department with 16 points per game. He is also averaging 5.8 boards and shooting 35.2 percent from behind the arc for good measure.
For all it’s worth, Martin scored 10 points in the first round against No. 13 seed Winthrop and 19 points in the second round against No. 12 seed Middle Tennessee.
He might not be getting as much attention as Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan or Kansas’s Frank Mason III, which is fair since they are Naismith finalists, but he is a 20-point threat and the key to Butler’s run in the dance.
Surely, he is all over head coach Roy Williams’ radar.
It’s Time To Finally Take The Bulldogs Seriously
When are people going to stop treating Butler like a mid-major? Yes, this team did some serious damage in previous NCAA tournaments as a Horizon League member, but it, once again, plays in the Big East now. Yes, the Big East has changed quite a bit in recent memory, but Villanova, yet another Big East member, won the Big Dance last season. Just as a reminder, the Wildcats entered the dance as the overall No. 1 seed thanks to only three losses entering the tournament, and two of those losses came against — you guessed it — Butler.
If — for whatever reason — you don’t think the Bulldogs can take down a team like North Carolina, just keep this in mind: During the 2014-15 season, Butler, who was unranked at the time, took down the Tar Heels when they were ranked No. 5 in the country.
The Tar Heels are the real deal this season — there’s no doubt about it. They earned a No. 1 seed, are flooding with talent, and made the title game just a season ago. That’s all well and good, but people can’t write off a team like Butler — scratch that, a team that is especially like Butler — just because it is about to go up against the mighty Tar Heels.
The Bulldogs are an NCAA tournament mainstay, they have proven they can get to the championship game, and they earned a No. 4 seed in this year’s version of the Big Dance for a reason.
North Carolina is, as expected, the favorite entering this Sweet 16 clash, but college hoops fans shouldn’t be surprised when Butler does what it does best against the Tar Heels — survive and advance in the NCAA tournament.
North Carolina, you are on upset alert.
[Featured Image by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images]