NCAA Championship Free Pick - Have to Roll the Dice on Butler at Odds

Although my gut told me up to this point that Connecticut, with the brilliant Kemba Walker playing just as well in the Final Four as he did during the NCAA Tournament, should take down Butler in the NCAA Championship Game on April 4, my analytical mind pushes me towards making the Butler Bulldogs on the moneyline my free pick wager for the game.

I’m always striving to find the best wager not just the best team on which to bet and based on what I see, Butler is offering excellent odds on the moneyline, not against the spread, versus the Connecticut Huskies on Monday night. Keep reading for more info on why the moneyline is the way to go in the NCAA Championship.

Butler Bulldogs (28-9) vs. Connecticut Huskies (31-9)

Where: Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas

When: April 4, 2011 at 9:20 pm EST


NCAA Championship Odds: Butler +150

NCAA Championship Betting Lines

Butler Bulldogs +3 -110 +150 O 128 ½ -110

Connecticut Huskies -3 -110 -160 U 128 ½ -110

Betting Trends

  • The Butler Bulldogs are 22-4-2 ATS in their last 28 games versus a team with a winning percentage above .600.
  • The Butler Bulldogs are 7 and 0 ATS in their last 7 games overall.
  • The Connecticut Huskies are 8 and 1 ATS in their last 9 games versus a team with a winning straight up record.
  • The Connecticut Huskies are 8 and 2 ATS in their last 10 NCAA Tournament games.

Obviously, the trends are going to be solid either way. So, the best thing to do in regards to wagering on either Butler or UConn isn’t necessarily to use trends, or even stats for that matter, to decide on the team to back. The best thing to do, and how I came up with my free pick for this game, is to decide on the best bet being offered in the sports book.

Clearly, UConn is a deserving favorite at -3 points. They took down the +140 2011 NCAA Championship favorite going into the Final Four this past weekend, the Kentucky Wildcats, and beat Arizona, one of the hot teams in the NCAA Tournament, in order to secure their Final Four bid. Connecticut spent the season battling some of the best teams in college basketball: Georgetown (at least early on!), Villanova (see what I wrote about G’Town!), Louisville, Notre Dame, and Syracuse.

Connecticut also has the best player in the NCAA Tournament on their team, Kemba Walker. Walker scored only 18 points in the 56 to 55 victory over Kentucky, but he managed to grab 6 boards and dish 7 assists. He also held Kentucky star player Brandon Knight, with help of course, to a 6 out of 22 shooting night for only 17 points and 5 assists. Walker and freshman Jeremy Lamb create a tough, difficult, pair for Butler to deal with.

However, I can’t get myself to make Connecticut to cover the 3-point spread my free pick in the 2011 NCAA Championship. Why? Because there’s enough in regards to Butler for me to see that the odds makers are just giving away too much dough when making the Bulldogs a +150 dog on the moneyline. Butler should be, at best, a +120 underdog on the moneyline odds, not +150. At +150, I have to make Butler to win the free pick. There’s just no way around it. There are some solid reasons, facts and stats, which did help me in making my decision, though. Check out those below:

Butler has outrebounded 4 of the 5 teams they’ve beaten in the NCAA Tournament - - This includes outrebounding VCU by a +16 margin, 46 to 30, this past Saturday in the 70 to 62 victory. Top rebounder Matt Howard was in foul trouble for most of that game and the Bulldogs still did a number on the boards. San Diego State and Arizona both out rebounded the Huskies in the Sweet 16 and Great Eight respectively.

Shelvin Mack is much bigger than Kemba Walker - - This doesn’t seem like a big deal, and it’s definitely not a reason to make Butler the free pick, but let me explain: Shelvin Mack is a 6’ 3” 215 lb guard. He reminds me of Andre Miller. Kemba Walker is 6” 1” 172 lbs. Shabazz Napier is 6’0” 170 lbs. In fact, every guard on Connecticut’s team is outweighed by Mack. First, who’s going to guard Mack and second how will Walker respond in the final four minutes if Mack has been leaning on him and pushing him around for an entire 36 minutes?

Everybody rebounds for Butler - - Against VCU, 5 out of the 8 players that Bulldogs’ coach Brad Stevens used grabbed at least 6 rebounds: Shelvin Mack, Andrew Smith, Matt Howard, Khyle Marshall and Ronald Norad. Against Kentucky, UConn’s Alex Oriahki grabbed 10 boards, Jeremy Lamb had 9 and Roscoe Smith had 8. If the Bulldogs can keep Lamb, Oriahki and Smith off of the glass, they could win the rebounding edge.

Butler has more scoring options - - At Connecticut, it’s still the Kemba and Jeremy show. Walker scored 18 while Lamb dropped 12. Nobody else scored in double-figures for the Huskies. Yes, Mack scored 24 for Butler against the VCU Rams, but Matt Howard pitched in 17 and Shawn Vanzant scored 11. Against Florida, Mack scored 27, Howard pitched in 14 and Khyle Marshall had 10. Against Wisconsin, Mack only had 13, Howard scored 20 and Vanzant scored 10. Butler can adjust while UConn will be in trouble if either Lamb or Walker is having a bad night.

I was all set to put money on the Connecticut Huskies to cover the spread in this game, but then I saw the odds on Butler on the moneyline. I have to take a shot. The Butler Bulldogs are just better than +150 underdogs. I’m going to back the Bulldogs to win the NCAA Championship against the Connecticut Huskies on Monday night. Butler is the free pick in the sports book.