The Butler Bulldogs begin a key home stretch on the college basketball betting schedule with a visit from St. John's on Tuesday, and SBR is taking a look inside the numbers with a free pick.
March may be reserved for madness on the college basketball betting schedule, but February certainly has its own share of insanity. A big part of that craziness should come from the Big East where seven of the 10 teams began the week separated in the standings by just two games.
The Butler Bulldogs are among those seven squads, and they'll be out to extend their 3-game win streak Tuesday evening when the St. John's Red Storm come to Indianapolis. Tip-off at Historic Hinkle Fieldhouse is a few minutes past 7 PM (ET), the game set to be televised by FOX Sports 1.
Butler was sent out -6 for the game, and that number is still available along with a few sports books having it -5½. SBR's live NCAA basketball odds will have a total shortly.
Tuesday's tilt will be just the fifth meeting ever between the Bulldogs and Red Storm, and fourth to take place in the last 53 weeks or so. Fifty-six years passed from the first clash in the 1958 NIT and last year's inaugural matchup as conference foes.
St. John's won both of the games last season, and the Bulldogs will be looking to return the season sweep after taking this year's initial contest in New York a little more than a month ago. Fueled by Kellen Dunham's 28, Butler came away with a 73-69 upset as a 3½ point underdog in a game that went past the total with 20 to spare. The Storm coasted to a 69-52 upset as small 'dogs in Indianapolis last year, that one never getting near a 133½ point total.
Has SJU Already Played Itself Out Of NCAA's?
ESPN's Joe Lunardi has already dismissed St. John's (14-7 straight up, 8-9-1 against the spread) from his Field of 68 for this year's 2015 NCAA Tournament. Steve Lavin's lads are indeed going to need to play better than they did during a 2-5 month of January, but the Red Storm do have some opportunities to redeem themselves.
This game against Butler is one of those opportunities, along with two games left against Georgetown and the regular season finale at Villanova. Realistically, St. John's probably needs to win three of those four games plus a couple more in the Big East Tournament, but stranger things have happened and we're still talking about a team that is hanging at No. 43 in RPI despite the bad start to the conference schedule.
Playing on the road has brought out the worst in the Red Storm; four Big East roadies have produced just one win for St. John's, the only cover coming as 3 point underdogs at Providence.
Bulldogs Begin 3-Game Homestand With Visit From St. John's
While St. John's may be underachieving according to Lunardi, Butler (16-6 SU, 13-7 ATS) is getting plenty of love in the latest bracketology as a No. 6 seed. Sort of an afterthought in the Big East behind NCAA basketball futures odds favorites Villanova, Georgetown, Xavier and Providence when the season began, the Bulldogs are opening an important 3-game homestand before playing four of their last six on the road.
Coincidence or not, the team has appeared more relaxed and comfortable since Chris Holtmann had the 'interim' tag removed from his head coach title. The win over St. John's was the first game after that happened, the only two defeats from that point on by a combined six points to the Friars and at the Hoyas.
St. John's has the leakiest defense in the Big East, allowing 72.8 PPG in conference games, so that concerns me a bit. Still, I'm liking the points on the visiting underdogs and will go with the Red Storm for my free Big East NCAA basketball pick.
NCAA Baskebtall Pick: St. John's +6 at 5Dimes
Season: 39-33 (+2.7)