Hogs Smell Like a Handsome Wager in East Opener vs. Butler

Rainman M.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 4:32 PM UTC

Tuesday, Mar. 13, 2018 4:32 PM UTC

Tenth-seeded Butler is a small favorite against seven-seed Arkansas on Friday at 3:10 p.m. ET in Detroit. Is there betting value in the underdog in this first-round East Region matchup?

Butler (20-13 SU, 15-17 ATS) vs. Arkansas (23-11 SU, 17-16-1 ATS)Free NCAAB Pick: Arkansas +1.5Best Line Offered: BetOnline

[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":3422146, "sportsbooksIds":[1096,180,19,169,93], "LineTypeId":1, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]

Bettors seem to be hanging on to the perception of a Butler team that thrives behind the arc. A difficulty with betting on college basketball is that there are so many teams to keep up with that bettors can easily fail to appreciate how quickly teams change. This year's Butler is nothing special from three, ranking 139th in three-point percentage. Arkansas' weakness on defense is indeed guarding the perimeter. In Arkansas' worst losses this year -- such as giving up 88 at Auburn on Jan. 6 and 94 at LSU on Feb. 3 -- they have tended to give up more than 10 threes. But Butler isn't equipped to exploit this weakness. Butler's top three-point shooter by efficiency hasn't converted more than two three-point attempts in its last eight games.

The Bulldogs' weakness on defense is also on the perimeter. They rank outside the top 200 in both opposing three-point percentage and percentage of three-point attempts allowed. Arkansas is equipped to exploit this weakness. The Razorbacks rank 12th nationally and first in the SEC in three-point percentage. Their two most frequent three-point shooters, guards Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon, rank in the top 120 in three-point shooting. Barford is shooting just less than 50 percent from three in his past two games, and Macon is 3-for-6. Their recent strong performances are telling because Arkansas (like Butler) is notorious for being rather weak on the road. On neutral territory, Arky's best helped them to SEC Tournament victories against two tough defenses in South Carolina and Florida.

[/]{"component":"video", "type":"youtube", "url":"https://www.youtube.com/embed/bzxsItau8Hs", "videoSize":"Large" }[/]

So although Butler's defensive ranking is higher than Arkansas' per KenPom's defensive efficiency, it's not that simple because Butler won't knock down enough threes against Arkansas. The Bulldogs rely for most of their points on scoring inside the arc where Arkansas' defense is actually very effective. Arkansas is one of the hardest teams to score inside against. The Razorbacks rank 90th in opposing two-point percentage and 19th in block percentage. Big men Trey Thompson and Daniel Gafford provide the Arky defense with superior size and strength inside and rank in the top 150 in block percentage.

What makes Arkansas very dangerous on offense is its versatility. The Razorbacks are also strong inside the arc because of the individual skill set of their playmakers. In the SEC Tournament, Barford was 10-for-16 inside the arc. Gafford ranks 129th in two-point percentage and went 15-for-20 from two in SEC Tournament play. Butler's defense, which lacks a shot blocker with nearly the same ability as Gafford and which ranks 164th in opposing two-point percentage, won't offer enough resistance. The Bulldogs' defense is ranked so highly by KenPom's efficiency numbers largely because of its ability to force turnovers. But Arkansas is very ball-secure, ranking 17th nationally in percentage of turnovers allowed. Four of the Razorbacks' starters rank in the top 400 in the category. When Butler's defense is unable to force enough turnovers, it will find itself outmatched.

Momentum is important heading into the tournament and Butler's lack thereof won't help it overcome its matchup disadvantages. A small favorite on the college basketball odds board, Butler is 1-3 SU and 0-4 ATS in its past four games and Arkansas will prolong its woes in our NCAAB picks.

Check out SBR’s college basketball odds page for updated lines. Also, head over to the March Madness Betting Headquarters for vital handicapping information, picks, and a list of the best sports books and live betting options for the tournament season.

comment here