Final Four Picks: Butler vs. VCU Odds and Predictions
by Darin Zank - 4/1/2011
Anyone who tells you they correctly picked the two teams playing in the first of Saturday's NCAA basketball national semifinal games is one of two things: a bleepin genius, or a liar.
In one of the most unlikely national semifinal matchups in NCAA Tournament history, the amazing Butler Bulldogs are in the unusual position of taking on an even bigger Cinderella when they play the VCU Rams Saturday evening at Reliant Stadium in Houston (6:09 p.m. EST, CBS).
These are two teams from smaller conferences on incredible tournament runs, winning games in crazy ways and knocking off some of the (supposedly) best teams in the country, which makes for interesting college basketball handicapping.
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Very few people outside of Indianapolis thought Butler had a chance to make it back to the Final Four this season. The Bulldogs returned three starters from last year's trip to the National Championship Game, but one of the guys they lost was that Hayward kid who led the team in scoring and rebounding. Butler was a preseason favorite to win the Horizon League, but a trip to Houston seemed pretty far-fetched.
The Bulldogs started 4-4 this season, which included losses to Louisville, Duke and Xavier. They then won six in a row, with a neutral court victory over Florida State, and they started Horizon League play 4-1. But they then lost four of their next five games, and sat at 14-9, and in danger of missing the Big Dance altogether. However, Butler won its last seven in a row to finish in a three-way tie atop the Horizon, then won the conference tournament, beating UW-Milwaukee on its home court in the championship game.
The 'Dogs entered the NCAA Tournament as the eight seed in the Southeast Region. They then opened with a buzzer-beating victory over ninth-seeded Old Dominion, and upset top-seeded Pittsburgh in that strange finish to reach the Sweet 16. Butler then dominated fourth-seeded Wisconsin, and last Saturday rallied from 11 points down with nine minutes to go to force overtime before dispatching of second-seeded Florida, 74-71, earning a second-straight Final Four berth.
VCU began this season with four starters back from a team that won 27 games and the CBI Tournament last season, and they were preseason favorites to win the Colonial Athletic Association crown. They did, however, have to replace their leading scorer and rebounder, too.
The Rams started 9-5 this season, with a win over UCLA and losses to Tennessee, Richmond and UAB. VCU then won 11 of its next 12 games, but then lost four of its last five conference games to finish in fourth place in the CAA. They then made it to the conference tournament championship game but lost to Old Dominion. Despite their 3-5 finish, though, the Rams got a bid to the Big Dance, amidst considerable squawking from some supposedly knowledgeable observers.
VCU had to play one of those new first-round tournament games, and beat USC in Dayton to earn the 11 seed in the Southwest Region. The Rams then upset sixth-seeded Georgetown and booted third-seeded Purdue to reach the Sweet 16. They then outlasted 10th-seeded Florida State in overtime and Sunday, as 11-point underdogs, and then thoroughly outplayed top-seeded Kansas, winning, 71-61, to make it to their first-ever Final Four.
For the season VCU is shooting 44 percent from the field, 37 percent from 3-point land and 72 percent from the free-throw line. On the other end of the court the Rams are allowing opponents to shoot 44 percent from the floor, and VCU is getting outrebounded by about half a board per game. But in particular in this tournament, the Rams have sharpened their long-range marksmanship; they're 53-for-121 from beyond the arc (44 percent) during their five-game tournament run.
Butler is shooting 44 percent from the field this season, 35.5 percent from long range and 73 percent from the line. The 'Dogs are also holding opponents to 43 percent field goal shooting and outrebounding them by six per game.
And the Bulldogs do a pretty good job of guarding the 3-point line, limiting foes to just 33 percent shooting from long range.
These two teams have played two common opponents this season. VCU went 1-2 vs. conference rival Old Dominion, splitting two regular-season meetings and then losing the conference tournament title game. Butler, meanwhile, as mentioned above, began this tournament with a hard-fought 60-58 victory over ODU on a put-back bucket at the buzzer.
The Bulldogs also beat Florida State, 67-64, on a neutral court in Hawaii back in December, while the Rams, as mentioned above, defeated the Seminoles, 72-71, in OT last Friday.
Butler vs. VCU Odds and Line Movement
Sports Interaction started this game out with Butler favored by 2.5 points, and the total set at 133. And while the spread has held steady in early betting action, the total, as of Wednesday afternoon, has been bumped at both those sportsbooks to 133.5.
Butler vs. VCU: Betting Trends
VCU, including the NCAA Tournament, is 8-6 SU and 9-5 ATS vs. tournament qualifiers this season.
Butler is 5-3 SU, 6-1-1 vs. tournament qualifiers.
VCU is 2-5 SU and ATS in games with point spreads of three points or less this season.
Butler is 4-3 SU, 3-3-1 ATS in games with spreads of three or less.
VCU is 18-18 on the ‘over/unders’ this season, as Rams games have averaged 138 total points.
Butler is 19-14 on the ‘O/U’s this season, as Bulldogs games have averaged 137 points.
Final Four Picks: Butler vs. VCU Predictions
VCU is riding a wave, but Butler is the better team here. The Rams have been shooting the lights out from long range, twice going 12-for-25 from 3-point land in this tournament, most recently Sunday against Kansas. But live by the 3, and you might die by the 3, and the Bulldogs seem to know how to defend the 3. And Butler has that never-give-up, can't-lose thing going. This is a close call; We'll just go with the team that's more familiar with the situation, give the points and take the Bulldogs.
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