NCAA Tournament Picks: Pitt vs. Butler Odds and Predictions
by Darin Zank - 3/18/2011
The Butler Bulldogs rode a wave last spring all the way to college basketball's National Championship game. And they added to their recent tournament resume Thursday with a buzzer-beating first-round victory over Old Dominion.
The Pitt Panthers, meanwhile, entered this season and this NCAA Tournament with great expectations, as they search for that long-elusive Final Four berth. They got their tournament started with a big win over North Carolina-Asheville.
So it's big bad Pitt from the big bad Big East against Butler's Cinderellas from the Horizon League in a one vs. eight seed NCAA Tournament matchup Saturday night at the Verizon Center in DC (7:10 p.m. EST, TBS).
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Pittsburgh, the regular-season champion of the Big East, is now 28-5 SU and 15-13 ATS this season after disposing of UNC-Asheville Thursday, 74-51. The Panthers, favored by 17.5 points according to college basketball odds, led by only five at the half, and they gave up the first hoop of the second half. But the Pitt defense then allowed just 10 points over the next 10 minutes, and the Panthers pulled away for the victory and the cover.
Butler, which shared the Horizon League regular-season title and then won the conference tournament to earn its fifth-consecutive NCAA Tournament berth, is now 24-9 SU and 16-13 ATS after beating Old Dominion at the buzzer Thursday, 60-58. In a tough back-and-forth affair the 'Dogs led by six with just under three minutes to play, only to have the Monarchs tie the score with 30 seconds left. Butler then held the ball for a last shot, and got a put-back bucket by F Matt Howard just before the red light went on to win it.
The Bulldogs had one of their poorer shooting games of this season Thursday, hitting just 41 percent from the field and going 7-for-26 from three-point land. But they held Old Dominion to 36 percent shooting, as the game played ‘under’ its posted total of 123.
Pittsburgh, which starts three seniors and two juniors, is shooting 47 percent from the field this season, 39 percent from long range but only 67 percent from the charity stripe. The Panthers are also holding opponents to 39.5 percent FG shooting and outrebounding foes by 10.6 per game.
Butler, which starts two seniors, a junior and two sophomores, is shooting 44 percent from the floor this season, 36 percent from beyond the arc and 73 percent from the line. The 'Dogs are holding opponents to 43 percent shooting and outboarding them by 3.5 per game.
These two teams have played two common opponents this season. Way back in early November Pitt crunched Horizon League member Illinois-Chicago, 97-54, in Pittsburgh. Butler, meanwhile, beat the Flames twice during the course of their conference schedule, by scores of 72-65 and 79-52.
The Bulldogs lost at Louisville 88-73, also back in November. Three months later the Panthers also lost at Louisville, 62-59, in overtime in the only meeting this season between those two conference rivals.
The Sagarin PREDICTOR rankings at USAToday.com rate Pitt at 91.6, Butler at 82.6. So the Panthers are favored by nine points over the Bulldogs on the Sagarin PREDICTOR line.
Pitt vs. Butler betting Odds and Trends
Pitt, including Thursday's first-round victory, is 11-5 SU and 9-7 ATS vs. NCAA Tournament qualifiers this season.
Butler is 2-3 SU, 3-1-1 ATS vs. tournament qualifiers this season.
Butler is 4-3 SU, 5-1-1 ATS as an underdog this season.
Pitt is 6-3 SU, 4-5 ATS as a favorite of eight points or less this season.
Butler is 1-6 on the ‘over/unders’ over its last seven games.
Pitt is 4-13 on the totals over its last 17 games.
Butler is 17-13 on the ‘over/unders’ this season, as Bulldogs games have averaged 137 points.
Pitt is 13-15 on the ‘O/U’s this season, as Panthers games have averaged 135 points.
NCAA Tournament Picks: Pitt vs. Butler Predictions
This should be a good one. Pitt might have the best team in the tournament, and they do so many things so well. But Butler is not going to go away easily. The 'Dogs have extensive tournament experience, they play defense and they make their free throws. The Panthers have great talent, but eight points might be too much. That's why we'll take Butler and hope for a grinder of a game.
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