Here's Butler basketball's road to a championship
The Butler Grizzlies are set to play in the 2021 NJCAA National Tournament for the third straight year and they have a solid shot to bring home some hardware. When the Grizzlies play to their best, they're arguably the best team in the nation.
There are some solid road blocks for Butler if they're going to make it to Saturday's national championship game. They'll see old foes, meet new ones and maybe if the universe aligns, they'll get another shot at Independence.
The women's basketball tourney has seen plenty of teams get back year after year. five of the 24 teams have been here for six consecutive seasons. Trinity Valley leads the way with their 15th consecutive NJCAA tournament appearance. The last time they didn't make the tournament? 2007. Out of the 24 qualifying teams, 10 have been in the tournament for three straight seasons. So, there will be a handful of rematches from over the past seasons.
If Butler is going to run their way to Saturday here's how it could look with all times being central time zone:
First round vs. No. 21 Otero (20-3)
When: Monday, 8 p.m.
The Rattlers provide a boat load of scoring but real depth against a team like Butler. While not ignoring the fact they dropped 94 on third-ranked Casper in their regional final, Butler's defense will provide a different challenge if they're locked in.
Statistically, this is the best Butler defense in school history and an already average Otero team can struggle as they've done a few times this season.
Emma Florez-Pascual and Krystina Hagood are the leading scorers for Otero JC. Florez-Pascaul leads them in scoring, rebounding and blocks per game. The Sophomore had 28 points and 14 rebounds in the 94-89 win over Casper in the regional final.
The Rattlers only run seven or so deep each game and if Butler can put them into foul trouble, that's where Butler will thrive.
Second round vs. No. 5 Northwest Florida State (20-2)
When: Wednesday, 3 p.m.
If Butler finds themselves able to get by Otero in the first round an old memory will be waiting for them in the second round.
Butler lost to Northwest Florida State two years ago, 51-50 in the second round. Butler had the bye. Butler had a chance to win it at the buzzer but it was to no avail. So, we could be seeing a potential revenge game.
Northwest Florida State is big, fast and scary. They have been a top five team all season and they would have been in the conversation for a top two seed had they not fallen in the regional semifinals to Gulf Coast State.
If Butler takes care of the rebounding and trusts their defense, they can win this game.
Quarterfinals vs. No. 4 South Plains (19-3)
When: Thursday, 5 p.m.
If the Grizzlies get by the Raiders, they'll be waiting on South Plains. This team is very beatable with losses to Howard College by eight, it provides a blue print on how to take down the Lady Texans.
You shouldn't be as confident about a quarterfinal match up than you are a second round game but that's the feeling I get when you look into South Plains. While you can be mesmerized by the name, not being here before is a huge moment, too.
Led by Debora Reis, who's averaging 14.0 points and 13.0 rebounds per game, they do provide a size problem that not many teams can give Butler. The Lady Texans also have four players averaging eight or more points per game. So, it can be a pick your poison type of thing.
Butler's odds of winning this game are good.
Semifinals: vs. No. 1 Jones County (MS) 20-0
When: Friday, 4 p.m.
The Jones County Bobcats come in unbeaten and winners of 23 consecutive games. While the respect is there for the unbeaten season, is the competition in the MAC as good as Butler's Jayhawk? That remains to be seen.
Jones can shoot and defend with the best of them, though. Led by Daisha Bradford, the Clemson commit, she's led the Bobcats to unbelievable heights. She's averaging over 17.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, leading her team in both categories.
Lekera Hughes can hit almost 35 percent of threes and hits 95 percent of her free throws when she gets there.
Jones will be tough and if Butler can figure out their shooting situations against Jones they may be able to keep up
Championship: vs. No. 2 Trinity Valley (19-2)
When: Saturday, 3 p.m.
Trinity Valley, arguably the best women's program in NJCAA basketball. They have made every NJCAA tournament since 2008. They've won three national championships and played in the finals in three others. This team has been there.
Though, with junior college basketball, creating that success is tough due to the turnover but they've been able to do it. Will Butler have their shot at Trinity Valley? Will Mekayla Furman get a chance to knock off her old team? That remains to be seen but they will most likely have to go through TVCC if they are going to bring home that elusive trophy.
It would mean Butler will have to hit the three, make their free throws all while focusing on defense. It would have to be one of their top games of the year.
Even though this seems as if Trinity Valley is unstoppable, they've lost twice this year, including to a very average Panola team.