BUTLER BULLDOGS (22-9, #2 seed in Horizon)
at MILWAUKEE PANTHERS (19-12, #1 seed in Horizon)
Horizon League Tournament – Championship Game
Tip-off: Tuesday, 9:00 p.m. EDT – Milwaukee, WI
Line: Butler -3, Total: 137
Three teams tied for the regular season title in the Horizon League at 13-5. One was the Cleveland State Vikings, who had the best overall record (26-8) of any school in the conference. The other was the Butler Bulldogs (22-9). You remember them, NCAA Championship runner-up last year, the real life Hoosiers in long baggy shorts living on the legacy of one of the most famous missed shots in NCAA history. And then there is the “other” team, the Milwaukee Panthers. They are 19-12 overall, and the team whose hopes of making the NCAA Tournament rely most heaviest on its ability to win the Horizon League Championship. Sometimes in the case of a two or three-way tie for first place, one of the teams might have backed its way into that position. Not the case for the Panthers, Rob Jeter’s team clawed its way to the top the hard way, by defeating Cleveland State once on the road, and sweeping the season series from the defending champion Bulldogs, who were a perfect 18-0 last season en route to winning the Horizon League tournament. Now it’s down to one game with an NCAA berth on the line, and as far as Milwaukee is concerned, two out of three just won’t be good enough this year. They need the sweep. Basketball scores.
The Panthers will have one distinct advantage on their side, the home court advantage. This year’s 2011 Horizon League tournament is concluding on the Panthers’ home floor, the U.S. Cellular Arena in Milwaukee, after beginning at various campus sites around the league. Milwaukee is presently 10-4 on its home floor after a 70-63 semifinal victory over Valparaiso earned them a spot in the finals. “It’s great to see the Cell rocking and the fans and the city excited,” coach Jeter said after the game.
Senior forward and leading scorer Anthony Hill posted 24 points to go along with 11 rebounds to hold off a Valpo comeback attempt. Kaylon Williams had 16 points and Tony Meier added 15 for the Panthers, who were 24-for-36 from the free-throw line compared to 5-for-9 for Valparaiso. The Crusaders came within four points of the Panthers with 2:05 to play, but Milwaukee was superior down the stretch from the FT line to earn the spot in the title game. On January 3, the Panthers dominated Butler in the first meeting of the year between the two squads, winning 76-52. Junior guard Kaylon Williams recorded his first career triple-double in the game, scoring 10 points to go with 10 rebounds and 10 assists (a 10-10-10 special), while Hill added 22 and junior forward Tony Meier added 20. The Bulldogs shot just under 39% in the first meeting, and while the second meeting was decided by six points in overtime, Butler still only managed 39.4% in that game. In completing the regular-season sweep, the Panthers became the first team since ‘04-05 to defeat Butler twice in the regular season. Basketball odds.
Butler enters the game coming off of a 76-68 semifinal victory over the Cleveland State Vikings, making it eight straight wins for the Bulldogs. Shawn Vanzant led the team with 18 points, while Final Four veterans Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard tallied 15 and 14 points respectively. Butler shot much better against the Vikes than it did this season against the Panthers, as Brad Stephens’ team buried 47% of its shots, and over 38% (9-for-24) from beyond the arc. Butler is 3-8 SU (2-8-1 ATS) in the past 11 games against the Panthers at Milwaukee. That includes the 24-point debacle from the first week in January and lopsided losses in the 2003 and ‘06 league championship games. The Bulldogs will bring their experience to the table, as senior Howard (16.7 PPG, 7.9 RPG) was named Horizon League POY for the third time last week, and junior Mack (15.3 PPG, 3.6 APG) was named to the second team All-Conference. Butler’s reputation is well deserved, but Tuesday night the Bulldogs will have to match that reputation with better shooting (49-for-125, 39.2% combined in the two losses) if they are to beat the Panthers for the first time, and the most important time, this season.
Butler has not been a good road team this season at 6-6 SU and 4-7-1 ATS. Milwaukee is 9-4 SU and 8-5 ATS on its home floor. The Panthers are also the superior bet in conference play this season at 13-6 ATS (68%), while the Bulldogs are 7-11 ATS (39%). Milwaukee is also 9-2 ATS in its past 11 games while Butler is 4-8-1 ATS in its past 13 contests. The last advantage going the way of the Panthers is their 3-1 ATS mark as a home dog, while the Bulldogs are 3-6 ATS as a road favorite this season. All signs point to Milwaukee taking home the Horizon League Championship. The FoxSheets provide a four-star reason to side with the Panthers.
Rob Jeter is 35-12 ATS (74.5%, +21.8 Units) when playing only their 2nd game in 8 days as the coach of MILWAUKEE. The average score was MILWAUKEE 70.7, OPPONENT 69.6 – (Rating = 4*). Basketball spreads.
The FoxSheets also show a highly-rated reason to play the Over.
BUTLER is 19-4 OVER (82.6%, +14.6 Units) after leading its last 3 games by 5+ points at the half since 1997. The average score was BUTLER 68.6, OPPONENT 62.3 – (Rating = 3*).