NCAA Tournament Odds: Butler meets top seed Pitt

By: David Schwab | Friday, March 18, 2011

Eighth-seed Butler will try and carry the momentum from Thursday's last-second win in Thursday's opening round into Saturday's Southeast Region matchup against the top-seeded Pittsburgh Panthers.  The Bulldogs are eight-point underdogs in the 4:10 p.m. (PT) tip from Washington DC's Verizon Center and the game will be broadcast nationally on TBS.

Butler did not come into this year’s NCAA Tournament with the same credentials of last year’s team that finished two points shy of winning a national title, but it served notice in a win over Old Dominion that it has every intention of trying to make deep run this time around as well. The Bulldogs needed a tip-in by senior forward Matt Howard at the buzzer to come away with a 60-58 win as a one-point underdog in a game that featured 21 lead changes.

Howard’s game-winning shot was part of a 15-point scoring effort that also included five rebounds. He led Butler this season with 16.7 points and 7.8 rebounds a game and remains its biggest threat underneath.

Junior guard Shelvin Mack also scored 15 points and dished out a game-high five assists in the winning effort. He is the team’s second leading scorer with 15.2 points a game and is averaging a team-high 3.6 assists a game.

Butler is shooting 44.6 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from three-point range. It is averaging 73 points and 35 rebounds a game. It shot 40.7 percent and pulled down 27 rebounds in the win over the Monarchs.

Pittsburgh won the Big East regular season title but made an early exit from the conference tournament with a 76-74 loss to Connecticut in the quarterfinals as a 5 ½-point favorite. The hangover from that loss carried itself into the Panthers’ game against North Carolina-Asheville on Thursday as they only led by five points at the half. Pitt then found another gear in the second half, cruising to a 74-51 win as an 18 ½-point favorite.

Junior guard Ashton Gibbs led the charge by scoring 20 of his game-high 26 points in the second half to help put the game away. Gibbs has been the go-to guy all year long for Pitt, averaging a team-high 16.7 points a game. Senior guard Brad Wanamaker, the team’s second leading scorer with an average of 12 points a game, was held to just six points by NC-Asheville Bulldogs, but should have a much bigger impact in Saturday’s game against these Bulldogs.

Pittsburgh is averaging 74 points a game and is ranked fourth in the nation in rebounds with 40 a game. Butler did a great job under the boards against ODU, which is another solid rebounding team but it will have its hands full trying to win this battle against a very physical Panthers’ team.

Butler is 3-1 against the spread in its last four games and is 4-1 ATS in its last five games overall. The total has stayed ‘under’ in six of its last seven games.

Pittsburgh is 3-2 ATS in its last five games on the road and is 4-2 ATS in its last six games overall. The total has stayed ‘under’ in eight of its last nine game overall.

Both these teams are averaging well over 70 points a game but has set the ‘over/under’ at 128 which still begs a play on the ‘under’ in what should be a low-scoring defensive battle. Butler is also a solid pick at plus eight as it will give Pitt all it can handle in this game.

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