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#9 Old Dominion (27-6) vs. #8 Butler (23-9)
Betting Line: Old Dominion -2 o/u 122
There was some controversy regarding the selection of three Colonial Athletic Conference teams to the NCAA tournament, but the ninth-seeded Old Dominion Monarchs (27-6) truly earned their spot in the Big Dance and get to play the eighth-seeded Butler Bulldogs (23-9) in the first round of the Southeast Region on Thursday at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC. The Monarchs (-2) won their ninth straight game last Monday in the Colonial tournament championship game against VCU, 70-65.
Meanwhile, the defending national runner-up Bulldogs also finished the season strong, winning their last nine games as well. They knocked off Wisconsin-Milwaukee 59-44 in the Horizon League championship game last Tuesday to defend their crown and have beaten Old Dominion in two previous meetings both straight-up and against the spread, the last time coming in the 2007 NCAA tournament.
Butler was in danger of missing out on the Big Dance following a three-game losing streak between January 23 and February 3 but won seven in a row to close out the regular season and tie Cleveland State and Wisconsin-Milwaukee for the best record in the Horizon at 13-5. The Bulldogs beat the Vikings twice by a combined 20 points during their winning streak before capping it off with a rout of the Panthers in the title game. Senior Matt Howard led the way with 18 points against Wisconsin-Milwaukee while Shelvin Mack added 14.
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Howard and Mack are two of the four returning starters for a Butler team that lost to Duke 61-59 in last year's national championship game. Gordon Hayward is the only player missing from that squad, as he left for the NBA after his sophomore season and was drafted by the Utah Jazz in the first round. The remaining Bulldogs obviously have a lot of experience from last year's run, which included upsets of Syracuse (+6) and Michigan State (+3.5) as underdogs.
The Monarchs pulled off an upset of their own in last year's NCAA tournament, edging Notre Dame 51-50 in the first round as 2.5-point dogs. They lost their next game in the second round to Baylor 76-68 but had followed that up this year with another outstanding campaign, capturing their conference tournament title for the second straight year.
Old Dominion is 7-1-1 ATS during its winning streak and has seen the OVER cash in five of the last six games. Butler has seen much lower-scoring games lately, with the UNDER going 5-1 in its past six. The Bulldogs are 5-3-1 ATS during their winning streak.
Predicted Score: Old Dominion 62 Butler 61
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