Tournament Picks: Go 'Over' In High Scoring Match With Texas Tech Against Butler

Matthew Jordan

Monday, March 14, 2016 5:45 PM GMT

The first game in the NCAA Tournament's Midwest Region on Thursday features No. 8 seed Texas Tech against No. 9 Butler from Raleigh, N.C., a 12:40 p.m. ET start. 

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Red Raiders End Tourney Drought
I'm quite surprised that Texas Tech got such a reasonable seed as many had the Red Raiders on the  NCAA Tournament bubble with their 19-12 record. They were seventh in the Big 12 regular-season standings at 9-9. Coach Tubby Smith's squad lost three of its final four games, including an inexplicable 67-62 loss in the Big 12 Tournament opener to a bad TCU team that fired head coach Trent Johnson on Monday. Clearly playing in the ultra-tough Big 12 helped the Red Raiders' cause. They did beat No. 14 Iowa State, No. 21 Baylor and No. 3 Oklahoma in one three-game stretch in February.

It's the fifth program Smith has led to the Big Dance as he also did so at Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky (won a national title) and Minnesota. The only other coach to lead five different schools to the NCAA Tournament is Lon Kruger. Smith earned a nice $50,000 bonus for this bid. TTU hadn't made the NCAA Tournament since 2007. Smith was named the Big 12 Coach of the Year. It's the third time he has won that award in a conference, along with the Mountain Valley and SEC.

Texas Tech was just 13-19 last season. Devaugntah Williams was returning as the team's leading scorer at 10.5 points per game. He's second on the team in scoring this season at 10.6 points per game. Senior Toddrick Gotcher leads at 11.1 points per game. Zach Smith leads in rebounding at 7.4 per game while adding 10.1 points. He plays a team-high 33 minutes a night. Smith, a sophomore, had his first career double-double in Big 12 play in that loss to TCU with 13 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. That latter number was a school record in a Big 12 Tournament game.

The Red Raiders didn't play Butler this season, although the schools were both in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in November. Texas Tech hasn't played a team from the Big East this year.

 “We saw them in a couple of their games in Puerto Rico and they saw us play so we are kind of familiar with their type of game,” TTU sophomore forward Justin Gray said to Redraiders.com. “They are very pass oriented in their offense, we will have to look for cuts."

Texas Tech is 15-13 against the spread on NCAA basketball odds this season and 15-13 'over/under.'

 

Bulldogs Are Fifth Big East Team In
Butler (21-10) finished 10-8 in the Big East, tied for fourth with Providence. The Bulldogs lost their Big East Tournament opener to those Friars, 74-60, to end a three-game winning streak. One of Butler's best players, senior Roosevelt Jones, was just 1-for-9 from the field for five points. He averages 14.0 points on the season.

It's the second year in a row in the Big Dance for Butler, which beat No. 11 seed Texas in the 2015 opening round before falling to No. 3 Notre Dame, 67-64 in overtime. Coach Chris Holtmann wasn't Butler's first choice to replace Brad Stevens when he left to take the Boston Celtics  job. Brandon Miller originally got the job but had to take a leave for medical reasons and never came back. Holtmann was first named interim coach and then got the full-time gig in early January 2015. Holtmann previously was the head coach for three seasons at Gardner-Webb, where he was named the Big South Conference Coach of the Year after leading the Runnin' Bulldogs to a 21-13 and a spot in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament during the 2012-13 season.

The Bulldogs' best wins this season are over AAC regular-season champion Temple, Cincinnati, Purdue and twice over Seton Hall. All four of those schools are also in the Big Dance. The No. 9 seed equals Butler’s worst since 2003. The Bulldogs are 8-1 in NCAA Tournament openers since 2001. They are one of the most experienced teams in the Big Dance as no player in their top eight is younger than a sophomore. Butler is an up-tempo team averaging 80.6 points per game, which is 22nd nationally.

Butler is 16-14-1 ATS on NCAA Tournament picks this season and 16-13-1 O/U. Butler and Texas Tech have played once before: an 81-71 Butler win in the 2007 Great Alaska Shootout championship game. The winner of this game surely will No. 1 seed Virginia in the round of 32 Saturday. And I'm taking Butler here. Go 'over' the total. Butler is 21-8 ATS in NCAA Tournament games since 1997. The Bulldogs have covered 23 of their past 23 non-conference games.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Over 147.5
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes