The best game in the BracketBuster event this weekend could wind up being Southern Illinois at Butler. The Salukis are not only the best defensive team in the Missouri Valley Conference, they are one of the very best defensive teams in the nation. Southern Illinois can guard the ball, they have great helpside defense, and they close out well to pressure shooters. Tony Young and Jamaal Tatum can cover on the perimeter, and Randal Falker can guard bigger people inside and help effectively as a weakside shotblocker and shotchanger. Matt Shaw could be a real difference maker because of his ability to spot up and hit perimeter shots, and his ability to grab tough rebounds.
Butler will provide Tatum and Young with their toughest test, as both Mike Green and A.J. Graves present unique problems. Green was the leading scorer at Towson before transferring to Butler, and is a good driver that is very good with the ball. Graves is a respected, almost revered player in the Horizon League, and really has made Green a better player because he lets him do most of the handling after keeping the ball exclusively last season. Graves is an outstanding shooter, but his real skill is changing speeds and pace to keep defenders off balance. Butler might have a slight advantage in the backcourt, but Southern Illinois has the edge in the frontcourt with Shaw and Falker. Southern Illinois' big guys are used to guarding out on the perimeter, so it might be tougher for Butler to beat the Salukis than it would be to beat Purdue or Indiana because they can create so many matchup problems. To slow down Butler, Southern Illinois will have to guard their ballscreens, staggers and screen the screener action. As a defender, you know that if your man screens, you are about to get screened.