NCAA Basketball Picks: Take Virginia -7 In Low-Scoring Game Against Butler

Matthew Jordan

Friday, March 18, 2016 9:24 PM UTC

Friday, Mar. 18, 2016 9:24 PM UTC

A trip to Chicago and the Sweet 16 in the Midwest Region is on the line Saturday from Raleigh, N.C., when No. 1 seed Virginia faces No. 9 Butler in a contrast of styles. UVA is -7 on BetOnline's NCAA Basketball odds with a low total of 132.

Bulldogs Continue First-Round Success
Butler (22-12), from the Big East, was a 3.5-point favorite Thursday against No. 8 Texas Tech from the Big 12 and the Bulldogs covered in a 71-61 victory. That improved Butler to 9-1 in NCAA Tournament openers since 2001.

One of Butler's best players is Kelan Martin, and he didn't score for the first 31 minutes or so against Texas Tech, going 0-for-4 from the field. The sophomore entered averaging 16.1 points. But then Martin woke up and helped his team pull away by scoring 11 points in the final 8 1/2 minutes. It was 48-48 when Martin went on a personal 8-0 run. Texas Tech would pull as close as three, 56-53 with 6:48 left, but wouldn't get closer.  Kellen Dunham led Butler with 23 points, shooting 5-for-9 on 3-pointers. Tyler Wideman added 14 points on 6-of-6 shooting to go along with seven rebounds.

The one negative for Butler was that Roosevelt Jones was 1-for-8 for four points, the only starter not to reach double digits. But Jones made up for it with eight rebounds and six assists. Butler was held nearly 11 points under its season average of 80.6, which was 22nd nationally.

Both Dunham and Jones will move up on school all-time lists in this game. Dunham has 1,938 career points, one shy of Matt Howard for third place in Butler history. Jones started his 133rd career game Thursday, tying Howard for the school record.

The Bulldogs haven't reached the Sweet 16 since 2011, when they reached their second straight national title game. Butler is the last mid-major to make the title game. The Bulldogs are 17-14-1 against the spread on NCAA Tournament odds this season and 16-14-1 'over/under.'


Cavaliers Barely Troubled In Opener
Many people thought Virginia should have been the No. 2 in the  Midwest Region with Michigan State at No. 1. But the Cavaliers (27-7) played as well as anyone Thursday in routing Hampton 81-45 as 23-point favorites. The game was over at halftime with UVA up 40-21.

Anthony Gill scored 19 points, London Perrantes had 12 points and ACC  Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon had 11. The Cavs shot 55.2 percent from the field and were 12-for-25 from long range. That's notable because the team averaged only six 3-pointers per game during the season. The 12 3-pointers set a school record in the NCAA Tournament.

It was also Virginia's largest margin of victory ever in the Big Dance. UVA has one of the nation's best defenses, allowing just 59.7 points during the season. Hampton shot only 30.4 percent and was 3-for-19 from long range. The Cavs are 56-2 when holding opponents under 50 points in the Tony Bennett era

Really the only notable thing from Virginia's win was when Bennett collapsed near the end of the first half. He was helped to the locker room with five seconds left but he returned to the sideline to coach the second. Bennett said he was just dehydrated and hadn't been feeling 100 percent during the week.

Virginia is 18-14 ATS on NCAA Tournament picks this season and 12-20 O/U.


Common Opponents
On Nov. 22, Butler played Miami (Fla.) when the Hurricanes were unranked. The Bulldogs, then ranked No. 22, were 3.5-point  underdogs for the game in Puerto Rico and lost 85-75. Virginia played the Canes twice. On Jan. 12 in Charlottesville, the Cavs were 4.5-point favorites at sportsbooks over the No. 8 Hurricanes and won 66-58. On Feb. 22 in Miami, UVA was a 1.5-point dog against the No. 12 Canes and lost 64-61. That was Virginia's final regular-season defeat.

Meanwhile, Virginia hosted No. 12 Villanova on Dec. 19 and the Cavs won 86-75 as 5.5-point favorites. Of course Villanova was the Big East regular-season champion. Butler played the Wildcats twice: losing 60-55 at home on Jan. 10 as a 4.5-point underdog and then 77-67 in Philadelphia as an 11-point underdog when Villanova was ranked No. 1 in the nation.

This is the first-ever meeting between the schools. I don't take a lot from common opponents, but it seems to favor Virginia. And it is the better team. Give the points and go 'under' that total. If Butler could manage only 71 vs. TTU, it should be held in the 60s here.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Virginia -7 & Under 130
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

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