#1 Pittsburgh Panthers (28-5) vs. #8 Butler Bulldogs (24-9)
Betting Line: Pittsburgh 7.5 o/u 128
The eighth-seeded Butler Bulldogs (24-9) picked up where they left off in last year’s NCAA Tournament, providing another thrilling ending to their second-round matchup with #9 Old Dominion to advance against the top-seeded Pittsburgh Panthers (28-5) in the Southeast Region at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Butler saw senior Matt Howard Scorethe Game-winning shot to beat the Monarchs 60-58 at the buzzer off a rebound, giving the team its sixth win in the Big Dance in the last seven Games.
Howard is one of Four returning starters for the national runner-up Bulldogs, who captivated the college basketball world a year ago when they upset top seed Syracuse in the Sweet 16 and followed that up by beating Kansas State to get to the first Final Four in school history. They faced Duke in the national title Game after beating Michigan State and lost 61-59 to end one of the most memorable runs of all-time.
Butler got 15 points apiece from Howard and Shelvin MACk against Old Dominion to extend the team’s winning streak to 10 Games. The Bulldogs have held five of their last seven opponents to 58 points or less with the UNDER cashing in all but one of those Games.
The Panthers (-7.5) have also used defense to generate wins lately, as the UNDER is 8-1 in their last nine Games. They are also 4-1 straight-up and against the spread in their last five Games that have gone UNDER the total following a 74-51 rout of North Carolina-Asheville.
Pittsburgh got off to a slow start against the Bulldogs before pulling away in the second half, dominating the boards and limiting them to 30 percent shooting from the field. The Panthers held a 44-26 edge in rebounding and allowed Asheville to make only 3 of 19 attempts from 3-point range.
Pitt’s Ashton Gibbs scored a Game-high 26 points, with 20 of them coming in the second half. Gibbs also totaled 27 points in the team’s 76-74 loss to Connecticut in the Big East Conference Tournament quarterfinals and has made 12 of 16 shots from beyond the arc in the last two Games.
The Panthers were bounced from the NCAA Tournament in the second round last year, losing 71-68 to Xavier. Like this year, they had crushed Oakland 89-66 in the first round and will be trying to get back to the Sweet 16 for the first time since they made it to the Elite Eight in 2009.
Score Prediction: Pitt 75 Butler 59