Butler (25-9 straight up, 17-13-2 against the spread) has crashed the Southeast Region party, and is trying to advance to its second Final Four in as many years.
The eighth-seeded Bulldogs reside in mid-major territory in the Horizon League, and stick out in a Southeast Region that has seeds two, three and four still playing. Butler won its first two games by a combined three points.
Wisconsin (25-8 SU, 17-12 ATS) remains one of two Big Ten schools still playing in the NCAA Tournament, winning its first two games by a combined 19 points. The fourth-seeded Badgers currently entertain 20/1 odds of winning the national championship, while the Bulldogs are 25/1.
Wisconsin opened as four-point ‘chalk’ over Butler, but the Don Best odds screen now shows the Badgers as a five-point favorite while the total has remained unchanged at 124.
TBS will provide coverage of Thursday’s Sweet 16 matchup from Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, tentatively scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. (PT), about a half hour after the BYU-Florida contest concludes.
Butler started its NCAA Tournament run by slipping past ninth-seed Old Dominion last Thursday as a one-point underdog, 60-58, while the combined 118 points went ‘under’ the 123 ½-point closing. Senior forward Matt Howard’s tip-in at the buzzer prevented the game from going into overtime.
The Bulldogs followed that effort with Saturday’s victory over Southeast Region top-seed Pittsburgh as an eight-point underdog, 71-70. The combined 141 points flew ‘over’ the 125-point closing total.
The end of the game was bizarre to say the least, with a pair of fouls occurring in the last few seconds. Butler took the lead with three seconds remaining when Andrew Smith scored in the paint. Then the Bulldogs’ Shelvin Mack inadvertently fouled Gilbert Brown on the inbounds. Pitt’s senior made his first free throw to tie the game before missing the second.
Howard grabbed the rebound, and was then inexplicably fouled with a few tenths of a second remaining in the game. Howard promptly made his first foul shot before missing the second one intentionally to provide the final score.
Butler entered halftime with an eight-point advantage, 38-30, but eventually blew a 12-point lead and had to rally from a five-point deficit over the last 10:37. The Bulldogs prevailed despite trailing the Panthers in rebounding, 31-21, and assists, 21-12. Butler shot 46 percent (24-of-52) from the field, but won the game by shooting 44 percent (12-of-27) from behind the arc.
Mack scored 30 points in the victory on 10-of-16 shooting, while Howard contributed 16 and six rebounds. They were the only two Bulldogs to reach double digits in scoring, while guard Shawn Vanzant provided seven and four assists.
Butler has now won 11 games in a row SU, and has not lost since a Feb. 3 road setback to Youngstown State that concluded a 1-4 stretch. The Bulldogs are now 7-3 ATS in the NCAA Tournament under head coach Brad Stevens.
Wisconsin cruised past Belmont in last Thursday’s opener as a 4 ½-point ‘chalk,’ 72-58, while the combined 130 points eclipsed the 128-point closing total. The Badgers then held off fifth-seed Kansas State Saturday as a 3 ½-point favorite, 70-65. The combined 135 points toppled the 124-point closing total, helping the ‘over’ improve to 8-2 the previous 10 outings.
Bo Ryan's squad held on after entering halftime with a six-point advantage, 36-30, finishing the game with more assists (12-7) while trailing in rebounding (30-27). The Badgers shot a solid 42 percent (21-of-50) from the field, and 45 percent (9-of-20) from 3-point land.
Forward Jon Leuer led a balanced attack with 19 points and seven rebounds, while guard Jordan Taylor added 12, four and six assists. Guard Josh Gasser had 11 and seven boards, while forward Mike Bruesewitz contributed 11 and six.
Butler and Wisconsin have not squared off since 2001 when the Bulldogs prevailed as an eight-point road underdog, 58-44. There was no total on that contest.
Butler is 6-1-1 ATS its past eight outings versus Big Ten opponents. The Bulldogs have seen the ‘under’ go 6-2 their last eight games overall.
Wisconsin is 10-4 ATS its previous 14 Thursday games, while the ‘under’ is 13-5 the last 18 Thursday affairs.