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No. 4 Seed Butler Bulldogs Face No. 13 Seed Winthrop In NCAA Tournament

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – The #21/24 Butler Bulldogs, the No. 4 seed in the South Region, travel to Milwaukee for an NCAA Tournament First Round match-up with No. 13 seed Winthrop Eagles on Thursday, March 16. The tip is set for 1:30 PM ET and will air nationally on TNT with Carter Blackburn, Mike Gminski, Debbie Antonelli and Lisa Byington on the call. The Bulldogs enter the 2017 NCAA Tournament at 23-8. Winthrop, the champions of the Big South Conference, are 26-6.

Butler’s season-long resume includes a 14-5 record against 12 teams that made the 2017 tournament field. The Bulldogs played NCAA Tournament teams in 19 of their 31 games this season, including non-conference wins over Arizona, Cincinnati, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Vermont, and Bucknell. Butler was rewarded for an outstanding season with a No. 4 seed by the NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee. Butler was the No. 13 overall seed in the committee’s 1-68 rankings, making Butler the highest-ranked of the four No. 4 seeds. The No. 4 seed is the best in Butler history. Butler’s previous high seed was a No. 5 seed in both 2007 and 2010.

Winthrop will be the third of the four NCAA No. 13 seeds that Butler has played this season, after previously defeating Bucknell and Vermont. The Bulldogs have never faced Winthrop in program history.

Butler is 16-5 against teams ranked in the NCAA RPI Top 100, with nine of those wins coming against the Top 50 (not counting a win over No. 51 Northwestern). Those nine wins against the RPI Top 50 trail only Duke (13), Villanova (12), North Carolina (11), and Florida State (11). Baylor also has nine wins.

The Bulldogs went 2-0 this season against the NCAA Tournament’s overall No. 1 seed and defending national champion Villanova. Butler provided the Wildcats with two of their three losses this season, ending a 48-game winning streak for Villanova at their on-campus arena, The Pavilion.

The Bulldogs are 9-1 in their last 10 first round contests in the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs’ most recent first round loss came in 2009.

Butler is 8-0 in NCAA Tournament play as the better-seeded team.

Butler has been in the field for nine of the last 11 NCAA Tournaments, only missing out in 2012 and 2014. This is Butler’s 15th NCAA Tournament appearance and the Bulldogs have a 21-14 all-time mark in tournament play. After appearing in the 1962 NCAA Tournament, 14 of the appearances have come in the last 21 years.

Butler and Winthrop have never met as men’s basketball opponents, but Head Coach Chris Holtmann is familiar with the Big South opponent from his days at Gardner-Webb. In Holtmann’s three seasons guiding the Gardner-Webb program, he had a 2-4 record against Winthrop, which is coached by Pat Kelsey, a former player and assistant coach at Xavier.

The Bulldogs secured their third consecutive NCAA Tournament berth under third-year coach Chris Holtmann. He and Brad Stevens are the only two coaches in Butler history to lead their teams to the NCAA Tournament in each of their first three seasons on the Butler sidelines.

Butler’s 12-6 BIG EAST record placed the Bulldogs solely in second place in the conference standings. The mark ties the 2014-15 team (Chris Holtmann’s first season as head coach) as Butler’s best record since joining the BIG EAST for the 2013-14 season. The 2014-15 team tied for second in the standings but entered the BIG EAST Tournament as the No. 3 seed.

Butler is now 33-1 under Chris Holtmann when scoring 80 or more points, including a 12-1 mark this season. The Bulldogs have gotten to 80 points thanks to strong 20-minute performances on several occasions. Butler scored 50 points in the second half of its win at Xavier on Feb. 26. It was the sixth time this season that the Bulldogs posted 50 or more points in a half. It was the second time against Xavier this season. Butler also put up more than 50 in both halves against St. John’s on Feb. 15 (110-86 win).

Butler has shot 50 percent or better from the field 12 times this season. The Bulldogs are 11-1 in those games. When shooting a better percentage than its opponent, Butler is 18-0 this season and 53-2 under head coach Chris Holtmann.

Following a loss, the Bulldogs are now 22-5 under coach Chris Holtmann. That includes a 5-2 mark this season. Butler has never had a three-game losing streak under Holtmann, a streak they look to continue Thursday against Winthrop after dropping their last two games entering NCAA Tournament play.

Butler ended the home portion of its schedule with a 13-3 mark at Hinkle Fieldhouse this season and is now 39-9 at home under head coach Chris Holtmann.

Photo: Butler Athletics/#3 Butler Vs. #13 Winthrop

Junior F Kelan Martin has led the team in scoring in four straight games entering the NCAA Tournament. In three of those games (and seven times this season), Martin has led the Bulldogs in both scoring and rebounding. On the season, Martin has led the team in scoring 14 times and has pulled down the team’s most rebounds on 14 occasions. He has 10 20-point games on the season and his 25 points against Xavier on Feb. 26 were his best performance in a BIG EAST game this season.

Over the past six games, Martin is averaging 19 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. In the three games prior to this stretch, Martin averaged 6.7 points and 4.7 rebounds.

Redshirt senior PG Tyler Lewis (3.9) and senior F Andrew Chrabascz (3.2) rank third and tenth, respectively, in the BIG EAST in assists per game. The duo is also first and third in the conference in assist/turnover ratio. Lewis’s mark of 3.78 is third in the nation. Chrabascz’s eight assists against Villanova on Feb. 22 tied his career-high and matched the team output by the Wildcats. Against Villanova, Butler assisted on 21 of its 27 field goals.

Graduate transfer G Avery Woodson is 18-of-34 from three-point range over his last six games. That is a 53-percent clip. Woodson leads the Bulldogs with 65 three-pointers on the season. He is tied for tenth in the BIG EAST in three-pointers made and eighth in three-point percentage (.417).

Butler’s backcourt of freshman G Kamar Baldwin and redshirt senior G Kethan Savage combined for nine steals in the Feb. 26 win at Xavier. Baldwin’s five steals matched his career-high. It was Savage’s second consecutive game with a season-best four steals. Four of those nine steals came during a decisive 15-3 run.

Baldwin has 55 steals so far this season, a mark that is third in the BIG EAST and eighth on Butler’s single-season list. Baldwin’s 311 points this season are ninth all-time for a Butler freshman.

While this is Butler’s third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, it will be the first tournament action for several Bulldogs. Graduate transfer G Avery Woodson is on his first NCAA Tournament team. Redshirt senior G Kethan Savage was part of a George Washington team that played in the 2014 Tournament, but he did not play due to injury. Redshirt freshman G/F Sean McDermott joins Butler’s current freshmen as first-time participants. Redshirt senior PG Tyler Lewis played in two NCAA Tournaments with North Carolina State and has been on the Butler roster in each of the last three seasons (sitting out a transfer season for the 2015 Tournament before appearing in both the 2016 and 2017 Tournaments with Butler).

The BIG EAST Conference had 70 percent of its membership make the 2017 NCAA Tournament field as Butler joined Villanova, Creighton, Seton Hall, Providence, Marquette and Xavier. The BIG EAST was tied with the Big Ten at seven bids, trailing only the nine from the ACC. However, no conference matched the BIG EAST’s 70 percent placement rate.

On the season, the Bulldogs are averaging only 10.2 turnovers per game. That mark is eighth nationally. Butler had a season-low four turnovers – including none in the second half – against Marquette on Jan. 16. The Bulldogs have posted 10 or fewer miscues in 15 games this season and is 12-3 in those games.

The Bulldogs held Xavier to just 62 points in the BIG EAST Tournament Quarterfinals on March 9.  It was the first time this season that Butler has lost when holding its opponent to less than 70 points. Butler is 17-1 when its opponent scores less than 70 points and are 6-7 on the season when their opponent scores 70 or more.

Butler hit 10 three-pointers at Villanova on Feb. 22, the seventh time this season that the Bulldogs have made 10 or more behind the arc. Butler is 7-0 in those games. Butler’s season average of 7.6 three-pointers per game is fifth in the BIG EAST.

Butler had five players in double-figures against St. John’s on Feb. 15. It was the fourth time this season that Butler had five players score 10+ points. Butler is 4-0 in those contests. Butler is also 5-1 in games where the Bulldogs have four players score at least 10 points, including the Feb. 19 win against DePaul.

In BIG EAST play, Butler’s bench out-scored the opponent’s reserves by a combined score of 514-255, which is a 14.4-point advantage on average per game. Butler’s bench out-scored the opponent’s in 16 of its 18 BIG EAST games this season.

Eight different players have led the Bulldogs in scoring in at least one game this season. Six different Bulldogs have scored 20 points or more in a contest. In BIG EAST play, Butler had eight players averaging between 5.4 and 14.3 points per game.

The Bulldogs are 15-2 on the season when pulling down more caroms than their opponents. Butler out-rebounded St. John’s, 40-25, on Feb. 15. It was Butler’s largest rebounding advantage of the season.

Chris Fultz is a Senior Writer for the Indiana Sports Report and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by Butler Athletics and has full media access. Follow @CafultzISR and the @IndySportsRep on Twitter.

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