2009 March Madness: LSU Tigers vs. Butler Bulldogs Preview and Pick

No. 8 LSU Tigers (26-7) -2.5, 128 O/U vs. No. 9 Butler Bulldogs (26-5)
Greensboro, N.C., 12:10PM Eastern, Thursday

By Jay Horne of Predictem.com

The No. 8 seeded LSU Tigers and the No. 9 seeded Butler Bulldogs will get the March Madness festival kicked off early Thursday in Greensboro, NC. LSU won the SEC regular season crown this season in what was a down year for the conference. Butler had a respectable year winning the Horizon Conference with some descent wins in the rather soft schedule as well. These two teams will be one of the more interesting games of the first round considering many believe both teams are fairly even matched. Unfortunately the winner of this game will have to battle top seeded North Carolina in the second round given the Tarheels do not receive the most unlikely of upsets.

LSU has performed very well on the offensive side of the court. The Tigers
were among the best scoring offenses in the SEC averaging a respectable
75 points per game. LSU also ranks inside the top 15 in rebounding pulling
down 40 rebounds per game. The 2009 NCAA Tournament marks the Tigers first
appearance since the 2006 campaign where they reached the final four. LSU
will have a very long road to get back to the final four and it all starts
early Thursday with Butler.

Butler has a slower style of play from the tentative faster paced SEC opponent. Along with lower scoring conference and solid defense, the Butler Bulldogs rank 6th in the country in terms of scoring defense. The Bulldogs have held opponents to only 57 points per game this season and has only allowed 4 teams in their 31 games this season to score over 70 points. The Bulldogs defense will be a major impact in helping them bring down the Tigers this Thursday and move them on to the second round in the tournament.

Sportsbetting.com has the initial betting line favoring the LSU Tigers by a mere 2.5 points over the Butler Bulldogs. The over/under has been set at a low 128 points for the contests due to the Bulldogs slower pace and defensive style of play.

Butler is led by the play of sophomore forward Matt Howard. Howard has been the leader of the Bulldogs offense this season averaging 14.6 points per game for the season. Gordon Hayward has also been an important factor for the Butler offense. Hayward has posted 13.2 points per game this season and both standouts have contributed with 6.5 boards as well. Opposed to the importance for Butler to score some points, the Bulldogs ability to pull down rebounds will be equally important to their success on Thursday.

LSU has a pretty solid defensive side of the ball as well. The Tigers have held opponents to only 65 points per game as well. LSU has also held opponents to only shooting 40% from the floor for the season. The Tigers are backed by one of the better senior guards in the country. Marcus Thornton has been a big leader in the LSU offense this season averaging 20 points per game for the year. Thornton ranked 2nd individually in scoring in the conference this season and was a big reason for the Tigers success. Forward Tasmin Mitchell has played a solid supporting role with 16 points per game as well. If the Butler defense is to shine through on Thursday, they will have to control these two stellar athletes first and foremost.

Betting Trends
LSU is only 3-6 ATS in their last 9 games, but are 11-3 SU. Butler is 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games and 18-4 SU in their last 22 outings. The Bulldogs have also reached the over total in 8 of their last 11 games.

Jays Pick - Butler comes out hot, but fades in the second half. Take LSU -2.5.