As some of you know over the last year or so we have been doing various work with ESPN on their insider pages providing stats and historical data as well as some against the spread predictions on the games. After a spectacular NCAA tournament providing winner after winner for their readership Chad Millman asked me for my take on Monday’s national championship game between Duke and Butler.
With the College basketball season coming to a close I figured this would be a good time to share the depth of our insight to the paying premium members as well as the loyal readers of our blog. This should give you a taste of how much thought actually goes into one of our College basketball picks. Rarely do we ever provide written analysis with our picks mainly because of time constraints, but more importantly because we would never want to jeopardize losing an angle or piece of information that the public or bookmakers are unaware of. Providing write-ups takes away valuable time of handicapping the actual games as well as the makes pertinent handicapping information vulnerable for future use.
On Saturday this was the national title matchup I was hoping for as from a betting perspective I thought it would offer the best possibility of a wager. After running the numbers my math model has Duke as a 7 point favorite but I am giving Butler 1 point of home court advantage for playing close to home and having what should be a slightly bigger crowd cheering them on than the popular Blue Devils. Duke travels well but the game is close to Butlers campus and typically neutral observers tend to cheer for Cinderella underdog teams like Butler. With a current line of 7.5, Butler offers some value from a strictly numbers standpoint. Plus we know that teams playing close to home in the NCAA tournament have always been good bets covering 60% of the time since 1985.
You have heard me mention a million times by now that Butler is a great bet on team especially as an underdog in a non conference game due to their tricky style, discipline and excellent coaching. But how about some numbers to back that up. Well since the 1998 season Butler has been listed as an underdog in a non conference game 57 times; they are 41-16 ATS in those games. The reason being is simple, they are a pain to prepare for especially with just 1 day off like Duke has today.
This team rarely takes a bad shot and routinely gets wide open looks and layups off their complex sets making the defense look silly in the process. The Bulldogs defend their ass off on the other side of the floor, one of the few teams in the country that takes pride in its defense. Dont be fooled that they play in the Horizon League as even after accounting for strength of schedule they still have one of the 5 best defensives in the country.
Duke on the other hand is fantastic. I said they have been undervalued all year and they haven’t let me down covering 62% of their games this year including all 5 NCAA tournament games thus far. A feat I was actually surprised to see has been accomplished 7 times since 1985 (those 7 teams are 5-2 ATS in the title game for those wondering).
They are super efficient on both ends of the floor and are rated in the top 3 in both my offensive and defensive ratings. They are great at not turning the ball over on offense while getting offensive rebounds giving their deadly 3 point shooters 2nd chances to hurt teams that can’t get defensive rebounds. When most people think of Duke, they think white guys that can shoot the 3, well Duke 2010 not only has white guys that can shoot the 3, but they have outstanding perimeter defense. In fact Duke leads the country in 3 point percentage allowed. Coach K gets ragged on by a lot of wiseguys on these pages but I will go on record and say I am a fan this year. He has done a tremendous job coaching and putting this team together, and putting money in my wallet.
I think this game comes down to 2 things. First and most important is the officiating. All tournament long the refs have actually let Butler play defense in a very physical fashion, not calling ticky tack fouls. If the stripes dont whistle Butler out of the game they will have a great shot at covering and keeping the game close.
Second is offensive rebounding. Butler although very small is a damn fine team at grabbing defensive rebounds. One of Dukes biggest assets is offensive rebounding percentage. If Butler can limit Dukes 2nd chance points like they did against Michigan State (only 6 ORB’s for MSU) and Duke’s oaf Zoubek isn’t allowed to hang all over the back of Butlers rebounders they will be in the game all night.
If both those things go Butlers way the only way they dont cover is if Duke has an off the charts abnormal 3 point shooting performance like they did against West Virginia. Against a great defense I dont expect the looks to be as good, and Butler is real good at protecting the basketball on offense so quick wide open transition 3 point shots off turnovers are unlikely as well.
This game opened up at -6.5 and has been leaking up since Saturday night. Both Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack have been upgraded to probable yet the line hasn’t ticked down yet. Anytime I have some line value with a smart team like Butler it is an automatic take. With the current line of -7.5, my money as well as my clients money will be on Butler +7.5 for a regular sized bet.