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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, March 21, 2015 at 7:00 AM

It’s not exactly the movie “Hoosiers,” but it’s a classic battle for Indiana bragging rights when the Butler Bulldogs take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the final tip-off of the busy Saturday card in the NCAA Tournament.

Butler survived a hardfought battle with Texas to create another chance to go deep in the Big Dance. Notre Dame blew a comfortable lead, and had to sweat the ending early Thursday against unheralded Northeastern. Clearly there was a bit of a hangover after the Irish won the ACC tournament last weekend. Still, they weren’t supposed to be crossing their fingers in the final moments!

This will be an interesting game for matchup handicappers because Notre Dame’s extremely efficient offense will be matched up against Butler’s extremely stingy defense. Defenses ruled the day back on Thursday. But, at some point…somebody’s going to start making some shots! Notre Dame is well-suited to thrive when that starts to happen.

Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about the matchup…the final game of the day on what will hopefully turn out to be a very exciting Saturday schedule…


Adjusted Offensive Efficiency

Butler: 107.3 per 100 possessions (#72 in the nation)

Notre Dame: 121.4 per 100 possessions (#3 in the nation)

A mismatch on this side of the floor….though this wasn’t clear back on Thursday when hardly anyone was shining offensively. If you assume Notre Dame bounces back from a flat spot, they’re going to be in good shape. But, if you believe that “tournament” basketball right now will mean pushing and shoving in 40-minute wrestling matches…then we could have another buzzer game. The Irish may have been fortunate last week to draw up-tempo Duke and North Carolina in the ACC’s. ND’s offense wasn’t as challenged in the halfcourt then as much as they will be here. Big edge to the Irish on this side of the floor.


Adjusted Defensive Efficiency

Butler: 90.6 per 100 possessions (#8 in the nation)

Notre Dame: 99.9 per 100 possessions (#114 in the nation)

Wow…how are you going to handicap this?! Butler is a truly elite defense on a per-possession basis. You saw how much trouble Texas had getting any good lucks Thursday. Notre Dame’s defense is actually very soft…one of the worst defenses of any team seeded in the upper half of tournament Power Ratings. Patient Butler should be able to work for good shots…and could put even more of a scare into the Irish than Northeastern did. Truly a battle of extremes on both sides of the floor. Big edge to Butler on defense…actually a much bigger edge in Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency rankings than we saw on offense.


Pace Ranking

Butler: #231

Notre Dame: #208

Butler is perceived as a very slow team…but that’s not really the case. They’re slightly slower than average, as is Notre Dame. Butler is perceived as slow because they have a great defense and a lousy offense which creates low scoring games.

It’s fairly easy to visualize how this one is going to play out.

*It’s Butler’s game to win if they can patiently work to get good shots on offense, while using its own defense to disrupt the Notre Dame attack. Defense wins playoff style basketball, and Butler has the significantly better defense.

*But, Notre Dame managed to win the ACC tournament because they could outscore what they’re defense allowed. They played better than their stats (and market perceptions) when it really mattered, and could blow this game open early with hot shooting in the first 10 minutes. Butler’s always in danger of long ice-cold stretches, no matter how soft the opposing defense is.

An ND bounce-back might lead to a double-digit win over a dog that can’t play catch up. Or, the dog could be returning to the Sweet 16 in another year where the country didn’t give them enough respect entering the Dance. Think through this one carefully!


Against the Spread

Butler: 18-13

Notre Dame: 15-12

Both teams have been underrated by the markets this year (though most of that is “lately” with Notre Dame). Only Butler covered its spread on Thursday.


Early Line: Notre Dame by 4.5, total of 133.5

That splits the difference of the potential scenarios. Pick your scenario and pick your team! Of course, picking Butler is also a virtual pick on the Under because Thursday’s grinders were getting nowhere near their Vegas totals.

JIM HURLEY has his eye on several great Saturday matchups. Butler/Notre Dame could easily be part of the mix. But, literally each and every game contains a potential edge that could yield a “Game of the Year” caliber selection. You can purchase the final word for Saturday right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 before UAB-UCLA tips off at 12:10 p.m. Eastern time.

Back with you tomorrow to preview the best of the late Sunday starts. Then Monday and Tuesday will be devoted to the NIT, before big-game previews resume for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight through next weekend.

Be sure you’re with us EVERY DAY for great handicapping information here in the NOTEBOOK. Then, hook up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!


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