Butler Bulldogs vs. Georgetown Hoyas Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Butler Bulldogs (6-2 SU, 3-5 ATS) vs. Georgetown Hoyas (6-0 SU, 1-1 ATS), 7:00 p.m. EST, Tuesday, December 8, 2009, Madison Square Garden, New York, N.Y. TV: ESPN
by Ryno of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Butler +3/Georgetown -3
Over/Under: 127.5

The Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden features a highly anticipated matchup between two teams looking for their first high-quality win of the season, as Butler and Georgetown face off in New York City.

Butler has faced a very tough schedule in its first eight games, getting wins over Davidson and Valparaiso at home, UCLA on a neutral court, and Northwestern, Evansville and Ball State on the road, and losing to Minnesota and Clemson on a neutral court in Anaheim in the 76 Classic. Georgetown has played a much softer schedule in which the Hoyas are undefeated with five easy double-digit wins and a one-point last minute comeback victory over Temple at home in which Greg Monroe made a layup with six seconds remaining.

Both teams get right back at it after this game with a tough matchup on Saturday, as Butler will host Ohio State and Georgetown will travel cross-country to play at Washington.

Butler returns its entire team from last season that includes one of the best trios in college basketball – Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard. Hayward is a 6-foot-9 small forward who can play any position on the court. His ball-handling and shooting skills for his size are unlike any player in college basketball. He is so versatile that it’s nearly impossible to shut him down. He can stroke it from 3-point range, score inside or distribute the ball on the perimeter. Mack is a scoring point guard with terrific strength and a knack for getting to the basket. He’s tough to defend off the dribble, as he can take it strong to the basket or pull up for a jumper off the dribble. Howard is a gritty big man who is the heart and soul of this Butler team. He scores well around the basket and goes after every rebound.

Georgetown lost some talent from last season but does return All-American candidate Greg Monroe, a 6-foot-10 center who stood out nationally as a freshman last year. Monroe can dominate down low on both ends of the court and can handle the ball well and shoot mid-range jumpers well for a big man. Chris Wright is a solid point guard who can score points when he has to, but he does a nice job controlling the game. Austin Freeman gives the Hoyas a strong 3-point threat on the perimeter. He can also use his size to post up smaller guards down low. Jason Clark has given the Hoyas a big boost thus far with 12.5 points per game and 45 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

The most interesting matchup to watch in this game will be Monroe against Howard. These two elite big men will be battling down low and the winner of that matchup will likely be the winner of the game. The only time Monroe played against a big man that could defend him well, against Temple’s Lavoy Allen, Georgetown struggled and was lucky to pick up a one-point victory. It could be a similar struggle with Butler, especially since the Hoyas haven’t been tested other than that Temple game. The Hoyas could have a tough time matching up with Hayward. It will probably be Julian Vaughn guarding him for most of the game, but Hayward should be able to take advantage and score some points.

Ryno’s Pick: These teams match up pretty well at every position. Mack and Wright match up well, Monroe and Howard will battle hard down low, Hayward should have the advantage on Vaughn or Nikita Mecheriakov but both players have the length to do a decent job on Hayward, and both teams have some decent role players. Those role players could end up as the difference. Who will step up more? Will it be Vaughn, Henry Sims, Mescheriakov, Hollis Thompson or Clark for the Hoyas? Or will it be Willie Veasley, Zach Hahn or Ronald Nored for the Bulldogs? No matter what, it should be a low-scoring defensive battle played in the 50’s or 60’s. Both teams will have to protect the ball and shoot well from beyond the arc to win this game. Georgetown has played a weak schedule and hasn’t proven anything yet this season after missing the NCAA tournament and finishing just 17-15 last season. Butler has played a very tough schedule and has fared pretty well so far. Butler is the better team and is getting points, so it’s an easy pick. Take Butler +3.