Gonzaga at Butler Picks and College Basketball Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 1/19/2013
Who is the best mid-major program in the country?
That has been a consistent argument in that weird little subculture of people in the world that argues about mid-major college basketball programs. For the past decade, people have discussed the merits of the best teams from the non-BCS-affiliated conferences. There are a host of great teams worthy of acknowledgment; VCU, Creighton, UNLV, San Diego State, BYU, Xavier, Memphis, and George Mason have all been excellent in this millennium.
But when No. 8 Gonzaga tussles with No. 13 Butler at 9 p.m. on Saturday in Hinkle Fieldhouse, it will be a matchup of perhaps the two teams most well known mid-major teams in the nation. These are the two teams seemingly most representative of the “little guy” in the David-versus-Goliath world of college basketball, and they are two of the most decorated programs in the country since the turn of the century.
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This game will be featured on ESPN, and the GameDay crew will be in attendance. Here is a breakdown of one of this weekend’s top matchups:
Gonzaga at Butler Betting Story Lines
The main story in this game is that Butler will be without leading scorer Rotnei Clarke. The Arkansas transfer, in his first year with the Bulldogs, is out due to a sore neck and shoulders after a hard fall last Saturday in Dayton.
Clarke averages 16.2 points per game and at 44.4 percent is by far the best three-point shooter on the team. Clarke is the team’s point guard and primary ball handler, and he is nearly an irreplaceable part of this team.
Butler is ranked No. 122 in the nation in three-point shooting with Clarke considered. But the rest of the team has gone 55-for-188 from deep. That is a pathetic 29.3 percent rate from behind the arc.
That said, Butler got along just fine without him this week against Richmond, beating the Spiders 62-47 thanks to a dominating rebounding advantage (47-18) and suffocating defense.
The Bulldogs turned to sophomore Alex Barlow to run the point. He will team with freshman Kellen Dunham to give Butler an extremely young backcourt. But they will continue to put the focus on their strength on the inside.
There is only one problem: Gonzaga’s strength is on the interior as well. And the two starting post players for Gonzaga are better than anyone on the Butler roster.
Center Kelly Olynyk (18.3 points per game) has been a revelation, scoring 21 points or more in five of his last six games and topping 30 points in two of his last three outings. He scored 21 points in just 19 minutes in a 71-49 win over Portland on Thursday and is also second on the team in rebounding and first in blocks.
Olynyk pairs with Elias Harris to give Gonzaga one of the best frontcourts in the nation. He is a four-year starter, is second on the team in scoring (14.6 points per game), first in rebounding and is a matchup nightmare because of his ability to handle the ball on the perimeter.
Like Butler, Gonzaga relies on young guards. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell are sophomores, and backup David Stockton, son of John, is a relatively inexperienced junior. Unlike Butler, the Gonzaga guards can stroke it from deep, and the team is ranked No. 52 in the nation in three-point shooting.
These teams have one common opponent this year: Illinois. Gonzaga lost to the Illini 85-74 in a home game back on Dec. 8. Butler lost 78-61 in the championship game of the Maui Invitational back on Nov. 21.
Gonzaga at Butler Betting Odds and Key Trends
The spread has Gonzaga as a solid road favorite at -3.5.The total is 137..
Gonzaga has gone 3-0-1 ATS in its last four road games, and they are 3-1-1 ATS in their last five games overall. Gonzaga won, and covered, outright in a road game at Oklahoma State this year, and they beat Clemson, Oklahoma and Davidson en route to winning the Old Spice Classic down in Florida back in November. The Bulldogs are 6-2-1 ATS this year in games played on the road or a neutral court.
Butler has been one of the best bets in the country this year, going 10-5 ATS overall. Butler has covered three straight games and they are 7-2 ATS in their last nine lined games. The Bulldogs are 11-4-1 ATS at home against a team with a winning record and they are 5-1 ATS when facing a team with a winning record. The “over” is 7-1 in Butler’s last eight nonconference games.
Gonzaga at Butler Picks and Betting Predictions
I know it is crazy to bet on a road favorite in a game like this, but I definitely like Gonzaga here. Butler has exactly one good win since they got back from Maui, and that was the overtime win over Indiana. But other than that they have beaten up a lot of lightweights. Gonzaga has played a tougher schedule, and they have performed really well in their marquee games this year. Butler is going to lean on its forwards to carry the water without Clarke. But Gonzaga is so good in the post that I think the visitor’s strength is better than Butler’s strength. And the bottom line is that you can’t lose a guy like Clarke and not have it cost you something in a game like this. Even with Clarke, this was going to be a tough win for the home team. But without him I don’t know that Butler will be able to do enough damage from the perimeter to counter Gonzaga’s interior presence. A big factor in this game will be how the game is called (I’m not sure who picked the officiating crew). But assuming fair officiating, I like Gonzaga.
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