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Butler vs Syracuse Picks – You Can’t Spell West Without “Wes”

Posted by Washington Tucker on 3/22/2010 3:44:00 PM
NCAA Basketball Odds: Syracuse

Online betting is very tricky in the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Americans were reminded of that reality after a wild weekend in which many brackets were busted. Now, as this tournament heads to the Sweet 16 and the realm of the regional semifinals, will some of the darkhorses – like the fifth-seeded Butler Bulldogs – be able to take down heavy hitters such as the Syracuse Orange? Let’s see what happens in this West Regional semifinal, which will be played inside the home of the Utah Jazz.

Butler vs Syracuse betting odds: Syracuse
  • What: NCAA Basketball Betting
  • When: Thursday, March 25th – 7:07 PM ET
  • Where: EnergySolutions Arena – Salt Lake City, UT
  • Key Stat: Syracuse’s Wesley Johnson hit 4-of-6 3-pointers in Sunday’s win over Gonzaga.

The Butler-Syracuse Storyline

The  sportsbook odds for this game might have been in a state of flux if Syracuse’s second-round game against Gonzaga had turned out differently. Syracuse probably would have been a favorite against Butler no matter what, but the way in which the Orange squeezed Gonzaga right out of the Big Dance left a very strong impression on a number of basketball minds.

The biggest key for Syracuse is the health and overall well-being of Wesley Johnson. The Big East Player of the Year enabled coach Jim Boeheim’s ballclub to ascend to the heights of college basketball this season. His dynamic athleticism on the wing, combined with a savvy scorer’s mentality, distorted the shape of opposing defenses and enabled the other players on the Orange – especially zone-busting sniper Andy Rautins – to get more than their fair share of clean looks. Johnson has a nice outside shot, and when that part of his game was flourishing early in the season, there was no better team in America than the Cuse.

However, Johnson faded down the stretch this season. It was really no fault of his own. He was beaten up. Everyone saw the nasty fall he took against Providence midway through the Big East season, when his legs were taken out from under him as he went up for an alley-oop. Many were probably unaware that right around that same time, Johnson took an elbow against Connecticut that injured the thumb on his shooting hand, to the point that it was swollen twice its normal size. Johnson repeatedly struggled to shoot the ball from 3-point range, and that’s why this team got slowed down in late February and early March.

However, if there was a blessing in disguise linked to Syracuse's early exit from the Big East Tournament (against Georgetown in the quarterfinals), it's that it afforded Johnson a week to rest up and get healthy.

Versus Gonzaga, it's safe to say Johnson was ready.

Johnson was as aggressive has he has been in a long time, finishing with 31 points and 14 boards while playing 40 minutes for the shorthanded Cuse. Tellingly, Johnson was shooting the ball with great confidence from long distance. That’s the aspect of his skill set which was most centrally affected by his accumulated injuries. If this is the kind of shooter Johnson will continue to be in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, Syracuse will be extremely difficult to beat.

Offensive Matchups

Butler struggled to score against Murray State in Saturday’s second round. The fifth-seeded Bulldogs needed every last ounce of defense to pull out a 54-52 decision against the 13th-seeded Racers. If this team cannot shoot the ball against Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone, this game will be over in a hurry. Syracuse has more options, and even if Butler clamps down on Wesley Johnson, guard Andy Rautins will likely get a number of open shots.

Betting Edge: Syracuse

Defensive Matchups

Sports betting fans are aware of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, but they might not be as aware of Butler’s tenacious defense. Gordon Hayward, the best player for the Horizon League champions, flies across the court and provides great helpside defense for his teammates. He clogs passing lanes, skies to block shots, and stops dribble penetration. Syracuse owns a huge edge on offense, but Hayward ensures that Butler won’t be exceeded at this end of the floor.

Betting Edge: Even

Injuries

Syracuse big man Arinze Onuaku is questionable for this game. He did not play in either of Syracuse’s first two NCAA Tournament games, which means that he’ll be minimally effective if he even manages to get on the floor in this contest.

Betting Edge: Butler

Betting Prediction: Butler vs Syracuse Picks

The Orange are thin without Arinze Onuaku, but they didn’t have to use too much energy in their first two games of the tournament. If Wesley Johnson is 80 percent as good as he was against Gonzaga, Butler has no chance. The Bulldogs will fight, but Syracuse should definitely prevail.

Washington’s Pick: Syracuse

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