Razorbacks well aware of Butler’s valuable tourney history

Point guard Kamar Baldwin could be key to Butler's efforts to beat Arkansas' pressure defense.
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Arkansas coach Mike Anderson has many concerns about Butler, including its history.

“One thing about Butler, they’ve got tradition,” Anderson said. ‘They are used to playing in the tournament.”

The seventh-seeded Razorbacks (23-11) face No. 10 seed Butler (20-13) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in the East Region on Friday at Detroit. Butler has made the NCAA Tournament 10 of the last 12 seasons, losing in the championship game in 2010 and 2011. After a six-year absence, Arkansas has made three of the last four NCAA Tournaments.

“Butler is the team that has multiple guys that can handle the ball,” Anderson said. “They open up the floor and they’re a skilled team. You’ve got to try to speed them up, but they kind of want to be sped up. We have to make them uncomfortable. Our defense is going to have to be at an all-time high. You can’t put them on the line.”

Arkansas, which reached the semifinals of the SEC Tournament before losing to Tennessee, is averaging 81.1 points per game, slightly ahead of Butler’s average of 79.1.

“Obviously, we love the up-tempo, Anderson said. “So for the fans you get two teams that like to score. I think the fans are the winners.”

Senior guards Jaylen Barford (18.0 points) and Daryl Macon (16.9) are the Razorbacks’ top two scorers.

“Offensively, they do a really good job of spacing the court,” Butler coach LaVall Jordan said. “They got two good players on the perimeter they could go for 30 points on any given night. They got a big shot blocker in the middle.”

Daniel Gafford, a 6-foot-11 freshman, averages 11.9 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds and is tied for 19th nationally with 73 blocked shots.

“I think we’re one of the most difficult teams to prepare for,” Barford said.

Arkansas relies on its intense defensive pressure.

“We have to make sure we respond and have a good plan for that,” Jordan said.

Anderson said Butler has played well against pressure defenses.

“Stats say they only turn the ball over 11 times a game, “Anderson said. “(Butler point guard) Kamar Baldwin can go left or right. A couple of guys have 100-plus assists. The team is a blue-collar type team and the guard play is going to be crucial.”

Butler senior forward Kelan Martin, who leads the Bulldogs with a 20.8 average, said the competitive Big East Conference schedule is good preparation for many styles.

“It will be similar to a Big East matchup, so it will be fun,” Martin said.

The Big East has six teams in the NCAA field. The Bulldogs reached the semifinals of the conference tournament before losing to Villanova.

Jordan, a former Butler player in his first year as coach, has been impressed with Martin’s leadership.

“It’s helped him and helped him help others,” Jordan said. “That’s the growth. You knew he could score and it’s documented on the court his talent, but he’s taking a lot of pride in passing on what others have passed on to him.”

Martin needs nine points to reach 2,000 for his career.