This Thursday marks the beginning of the end of everyone’s March Madness predictions as the first round of the NCAA Tournament kicks off. The most intriguing matchups Wednesday are a mid-major 5-12 battle, and a 7-10 matchup featuring a young SEC team; with a coach with a championship pedigree, against an underrated powerhouse of the Mountain West Conference.
# 5 Butler Bulldogs (28-4, 18-0 in Horizon League) vs. # 12 UTEP Miners (26-6, 15-1 in Conference USA)
March Madness Odds
Spread: Butler -2
Money Line: Butler -130, UTEP +110
[ad#336r]Butler ran the table in the Horizon League going 18-0 and wasn’t really challenged along the way. Led by G/F Gordon Hayward (15.4 points, 8.5 rebounds), F Matt Howard (12.3 points, 5.4 rebounds) and G Shelvin Mack (13.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists) the Bulldogs are a small team and don’t have a true center. Butler’s veteran presence and extreme ball movement skills will be up against a physical bunch in the University of Texas El-Paso Miners. Derrick Caracter is a junior transfer from Louisville and has seen his production sky-rocket in Conference USA where he averaged 13.8 points and eight rebounds a game this season. Caracter is a 6’9”physical power forward who will be a load to handle, especially with the chemistry with junior guard Randy Culpepper who averaged 18 points and just fewer than three rebounds and two assists a game and is going to be an interesting challenge for Shelvin Mack and Butler.
Prediction: Butler has not lost a game since before Christmas and UTEP lost to Houston who was a hot team, but merely an average team in the conference during the season. Butler is the better team and will be able to neutralize the two man game UTEP likes to play with great team defense and ball movement on offense in a tight game.
Final: Butler 73 – UTEP 68. Take Butler -2.
# 7 BYU Cougars (29-5, 13-3 in MWC) vs. #10 Florida Gators (21-12, 9-7 in SEC)
Spread: BYU -4.5
Money Line BYU -205, Florida +170
Final: BYU 90 – Florida 72. Take BYU -4.5. (*also check out the rest of the March Madness odds)
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