Sweet 16: Syracuse Orange (30-4 SU, 20-9 ATS) vs. Butler Bulldogs (30-4 SU, 14-20 ATS), 7:07 p.m. EST, Thursday, March 25, 2010, EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah. TV: CBS
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Syracuse is one of the favorites to win the National Championship, but getting by this game will be no easy task. Butler has won 22 games in a row. The last time the Bulldogs lost was December 22 at UAB. Both of these teams know how to win, so it should be an exciting duel with a spot in the Elite Eight on the line.
Butler went through its conference undefeated this season and then won its conference tournament. No matter which conference it is - in this case, the Horizon Conference - that is extremely tough to do. In the first round of the NCAA tournament, Butler defeated No. 12 seed UTEP, 77-59. In the second round, the Bulldogs barely hung on for a 54-52 victory over No. 13 seed Murray State.
In Butler’s win over Murray State, the Bulldogs only shot 36 percent from the field and 7-for-20 from 3-point range. They got outrebounded by 18 (38-20) and allowed Murray State to shoot 43 percent from the field and 9-for-14 on 3-pointers. Besides going to the free throw line seven more times, the only other difference was turnovers. Butler forced 16 turnovers and committed only six turnovers. Ronald Nored led Butler with 15 points, Gordon Hayward scored 12 points, Shelvin Mack added 11, and Willie Veasley had 10.
Syracuse breezed through the regular season with only three losses, all of which came in conference play and two of which came to Louisville. In the Big East tournament, the Orange lost in their first game to Georgetown. In the NCAA tournament, they won 79-56 over No. 16 seed Vermont in the first round. In the second round, they won 87-65 over No. 8 seed Gonzaga.
In the win over Gonzaga, Syracuse shot 55 percent from the field and 12-for-25
on 3-pointers. The Orange won the rebounding battle, 36-27, forced 11 turnovers,
and committed 13 turnovers. Gonzaga shot 42 percent from the field and 3-for-21
on 3-pointers. That was the huge difference right there that decided the
game. Syracuse shot 12-for-25 on 3-pointers and Gonzaga was 3-for-21. It’s
tough to win a game with that huge disadvantage that Gonzaga had in 3-point
shooting. Wes Johnon led the Orange with 31 points and 14 rebounds. Andy
Rautins scored 24 points. Johnson and Rautins combined to shoot
9-for-15 on 3-pointers. Brandon Triche added 13 points.
Syracuse center Arinze Onuaku was injured for the first two games of the NCAA tournament, but he is expected to play on Thursday against Butler.
Syracuse commits 15 turnovers per game and forces 16 of them, while Butler commits 12 turnovers per game and forces 14. Both teams are outrebounding opponents by just under four boards per game, but Syracuse has the slight edge at a +3.7 margin. Syracuse is shooting 39 percent on 3-pointers and holding opponents to 30 percent, while Butler is making 35 percent of its 3-point attempts this season and holding opponents to 32 percent. Butler is shooting 45 percent from the field this season and holding opponents to 42 percent, while Syracuse is shooting 52 percent from the field and its opponents are making 40 percent of its field goal attempts.
Butler can compete with Syracuse in the backcourt and on the wings. Mack and Hayward are just about as good as any players in any conference in college basketball. But the problem will be down low. Howard is Butler’s only legitimate big man, other than the 6-foot-9 Hayward, who is more of a guard than a big man. Howard is very prone to getting in foul trouble, and Syracuse has a couple of huge, physical big men in Onuaku and Rick Jackson. Not to mention, Johnson and Kris Joseph will spend a lot of time around the rim as well. If Howard gets in foul trouble, which is very likely, Butler will be in a lot of trouble. If Howard can play at least 35 minutes in this game, the Bulldogs have a chance. They have to knock down some 3-pointers and prevent the Orange from shooting like they did against Gonzaga from 3-point range (12-for-25).
Butler is 21-7 ATS in its last 28 games as an underdog but 2-8 ATS in its last 10 neutral site games. Syracuse is 4-0 ATS in its last four NCAA tournament games as a favorite, 6-1 ATS in its last seven neutral site games as a favorite, and 20-8 ATS in its last 28 games following an ATS win.
Ryno’s Pick: I fully expect Syracuse to SMOKE Butler by 15 or more.