This Midwest Regional third round gathering has Hoosier State ramifications. The college basketball betting odds favor Notre Dame, but Butler seldom allows opposing teams to feel comfortable.
The Fighting Irish are given a puncher’s chance should they face Kentucky next weekend, however, first they have to knock off an always pesky Bulldogs squad and sportsbooks have established them as a four-point favorite with a total of 134.
Here is a breakdown of each club and what they will need to do against the other.
Butler Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense
The Bulldogs will face a Notre Dame defense which plays man to man extensively. When you break down Butler’s numbers, nothing really stands out, as they average 69.2 points a contest against opponents who conceded 67 PPG. They shoot at an ordinary 43.6 percent and mostly rely in Kellen Dunham (16.8 PPG) from the perimeter and Roosevelt Jones (12.4 PPG) on the inside. (Jones was hurt in last game and played with a balky brace and his exact status is not known)
The fact is Butler is not a great offensive team but not a bad one either. They do a good job in limiting turnovers, which plays a part why they were a reliable 18-13 against the NCAA Tournament odds this season.
Considering their 30-5 record (15-12 ATS), many would think Mike Brey’s team would better than limiting foes to 42.5 percent shooting. Yet the Irish have such a good record because of defensive contributions. For the first time in years Notre Dame has played man defense almost exclusively and despite a lack of size, they square teams up and do fine work in cutting off driving angles. Though they force only 11 turnovers a contest, if you are making NCAA tournament picks you know the miscues the Irish force are often going the other way for points.
This should be fairly even matchup on that side of the floor, but watch for Alex Barlow against who guards him, because his turnover rate quite weak at 23 percent.
Notre Dame Offense vs. Butler Defense
If you dive into numbers like college basketball handicappers or are just more astute about making sports picks, you’re aware Butler is No. 8 in KenPom.com’s defensive ratings. The Bulldogs beat Texas because they were +10 in turnover margin and they will have to take Jerian Grant (16.8 PPG) and Demetrius Jackson (12.4 PPG) out of their comfort levels and reduce driving lanes where they score on rim runs or find open shooters for three’s.
All season Brey’s Irish have been one of the most efficient offenses in the country, connecting on 51.2 percent and 39.2 percent from behind the arc. The Fighting Irish are at their best when the ball is not on the floor, expertly passing the ball to find deadly three-ball shooters like Pat Connaughton or Steve Vasturia. If Butler attempts to hedge too hard stopping the three, that opens up Grant to work inside and utilize Zach Auguste or up and coming Bonzie Colson, both capable scorers in the paint.
Most of Butler’s losses and weakest defensive performances have come versus good passing teams with versatile scoring options all over the floor. This is Notre Dame.
How This Game Plays Out
Butler will play their game and will not deviate. The will focus on rugged defense to force off-balance shots, hit the defensive boards and likely commit few turnovers.
Notre Dame seemed to lose their poise late against Northeastern and if that happens versus the Bulldogs, another early tourney exit for the Irish.
However, I think because of their offensive balance, Grant will find opener shooters and coach Brey will convince his troops to speed up the action and Notre Dame will move to 14-3 and 11-6 ATS in conflicts away from South Bend.
NCAA Tournament Pick – Notre Dame -4 at BetOnline.