NCAA Tournament South region Second Round: #4 Butler Bulldogs vs #12 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

2017 NCAA Tournament
South Region – Second Round
#4 Butler Bulldogs vs #12 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
Saturday, March 18, 2017, 7:10 pm Eastern, TV: TBS
BMO Harris Bradley Center – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Opening Line: Butler -4 1/2
Current Line: Butler -3 1/2
Opening Total: 141 1/2
Current Total: 139 1/2
Opening Money Line: Butler -185 / Middle Tennessee +160
Current Money Line: Butler -170 / Middle Tennessee +150

America East Tournament Preview
Butler and Middle Tennessee meet int eh South region second round Saturday in Milwaukee.

In a tournament short on major upsets so far, there are not a lot of Cinderellas. Gonzaga, Wichita State, and Middle Tennessee are the only teams left from mid-major conferences, and Gonzaga and Wichita State are elite programs nationally. Even Middle Tennessee is 31-4 this season. The #12 seed Blue Raiders were even a slight betting favorite against #5 seed Minnesota Thursday in the South Region first round as they pulled off the 81-72 win. It was the second straight season MTU upset a Big Ten team in the first round as they upset Michigan State last season.

Next up, Middle Tennessee takes on the #4 seed Butler Bulldogs in the second round Saturday in Milwaukee. Butler beat #13 Winthrop 76-64 in the first round Thursday. The Bulldogs are 24-8 this season. The winner between Butler and Middle Tennessee  will face either #1 North Carolina or #8 Arkansas in the Sweet 16 next week in Memphis. Butler and Middle Tennessee have never met before.

Middle Tennessee is making their ninth trip to the NCAA Tournament including three in the last five seasons. They have never made it to the Sweet 16. The Blue Raiders are coached by Kermit Davis and won Conference USA with a 17-1 record. Middle Tennessee has won 11 straight games including beating Marshall 83-72 in the Conference USA Championship game.

Middle Tennessee has home losses to Tennessee State and Georgia State, plus road losses to Virginia Commonwealth and UTEP. The Blue Raiders have home wins over Murray State, Toledo, Vanderbilt, UAB, Rice, Marshall, Western Knetucky, Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech, Old Dominion, Charlotte, Florida Atlantic and Florida International. MTU has road wins over Ole Miss, South Alabama, Belmont, Rice, North Texas, FIU, FAU, UTSA, Western Kentucky, Marshall and UAB, plus neutral site wins over UNC-Wilmington, Toledo and Evansville in Nashville, plus UTSA, UTEP and Marshall in the CUSA Tournament in Birmingham. The Blue Raiders are 24-10 ATS and the total is 14-20 this season. Middle Tennessee was a 1.5 point favorite against Minnesota and the total was 138.

Butler is coached by Chris Holtmann and were second in the Big East at 12-6. The Bulldogs are making their 15th trip to the NCAA Tournament including three straight. Butler famously made Cinderella runs to the national championship game in 2010 and 2011. Butler has not been back to the Sweet 16 since that 2011 season. The Bulldogs had lost two straight games before Thursday including being upset by #7 seed Xavier 62-57 in the Big East quarterfinals last Thursday.

Butler has road losses at Indiana State, St. John’s, Creighton, Providence, plus home losses to Georgetown, Creighton and Seton Hall. The Bulldogs have neutral site wins over Vanderbilt and Arizona in Las Vegas, and Indiana in Indianapolis (but not in Hinkle Fieldhouse), road wins over Utah, Georgetown, DePaul, Seton Hall, Marquette, Villanova, and Xavier, plus home wins over Northwestern, Bucknell, Norfolk State, Cincinnati, Vermont, Providence, Villanova, Xavier, Marquette, St. John’s, and DePaul. Butler is 18-12 ATS and the total is 14-14-2 this season. The Bulldogs were 11 point favorites against Winthrop and the total was 145.5.

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Middle Tennessee is outscoring teams  75-63 this season. The Blue Raiders are #20 in scoring nationally. The Blue Raiders are shooting 49% from the field and 36.8% from three point range. MTU is #12 in field goal percentage nationally. Middle Tennessee makes 69.8% of their free throws. Opponents are shooting 41.7% from the field and 31.9% from three point range. The Blue Raiders average 35.5 rebounds per game and opponents average 27.8 per game. MTU is #12 nationally in rebounds allowed.  The Blue Raiders average 15.3 assists, 10.4 turnovers, 6.9 steals and 2.9 blocks. Opponents average 10.9 assists, 13.5 turnovers, 4.8 steals and 2.4 blocks per game.

JaCorey Williams averages 17.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game. Giddy Potts averages 15.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Reggie Upshaw averages 14.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Five other players get significant time in the rotation but no one scores more than 5.8 points a game.

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Butler is outscoring teams 76-68 this season. The Bulldogs are shooting 47.8% from the field and 36.3% from 3 point range. Butler is #33 nationally in field goal percentage. Butler makes 74% of their free throws. Opponents are shooting 44.4% from the field and 33.4% from three point range. Butler averages 32.1 rebounds per game and opponents average 28.7. Butler is #327 in rebounding but #28 in rebounds allowed  nationally. The Bulldogs average 13.2 assists, 10.2 turnovers, 6.2 steals and 2.8 blocks per game. Opponents average 10.2 assists, 13.5 turnovers, 4.9 steals and 2.7 blocks per game.

Kelan Martin averages 16.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game. he is probable with a knee injury. Andrew Chrabascz averages 11 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game. Kamar Baldwin averages 10 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game. Avery Woodson averages 8.6 points, and 2.5 rebounds. Kethan Savage averages 8.1 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. Tyler Wideman averages 7.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. Tyler Lewis, Nate Fowler and Sean McDermott will also get minutes in the rotation.

Middle Tennessee is 5-0 ATS in Neutral site games, 7-1 in non-conference games, 5-1 as an underdog, 4-1 as a neutral site underdog and as an underdog of less than 6.5 points, 20-6 after a straight up win, 22-7 overall, 20-7 after a cover, 19-7 against teams with winning records, and 57-28-2 in Saturday games.

Butler is 5-0 ATS as an NCAA Tournament favorite, 4-0 as an NCAA Tournament favorite of less than 6.5 points, 21-5-2 in NCAA Tournament games, 4-1 as a neutral site favorite, 8-2 as a favorite of less than 6.5 points, 39-11-2 in neutral site games, 19-8-1 against teams with winning records, 7-3 against Conference USA teams, 34-16-1 in non-conference games, 1-5 after a cover, and 0-4 in Saturday games.

Both teams are comfortable playing in the 70’s. Middle Tennessee will not be intimidated by playing Butler. I like the Blue Raiders to go to the Sweet 16 in their home state.

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