No. 16 Seton Hall vs No. 21 Butler
Line: Seton Hall -5.5
Where: Prudential Center
When: Wednesday, 2/19, at 6:30 p.m. ET
No. 16 Seton Hall lost its margin for error with a pair of losses in the Big East last week.
The Pirates (18-7 straight up, 10-3 Big East) are now just one game ahead of Creighton and 1.5 games in front of Villanova atop the conference standings. They return home to face No. 21 Butler (19-7 SU, 7-6) on Wednesday night at the Prudential Center.
Seton Hall opened as a 6.5-point favorite at BetOnline and the total opened at 134.5. As of early Wednesday morning, however, most books had Kevin Willard’s squad installed as a 5.5-point favorite and a few were down to -5.
The Pirates won outright as 4.5-point road underdogs in the first meeting of the season, beating Butler 78-70 at Hinkle Fieldhouse in mid-January.
Butler is coming off a loss to Georgetown and has only covered the spread once in its last 10 games. However, the Bulldogs are 5-1 ATS in their last six road games at Seton Hall. The Pirates are 2-4 ATS over their last six contests.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Seton Hall penciled in as a No. 3 seed in his latest Bracketology update, while Butler is listed as a No. 6 seed. BookMaker has the Pirates at 21/1 odds to win the NCAA Tournament and is giving Butler 53/1 odds.
Seton Hall is coming off narrow losses to Creighton and Providence. The Pirates were 5.5-point favorites against the Bluejays, but leading scorer Myles Powell was held to just 12 points.
They were a slight one-point road favorites against Providence on Saturday, but fell behind by as many as 25 points in the first half and could not recover. Alpha Diallo scored a career-high 35 points for the Friars.
Powell has been one of the nation’s best players, averaging 21.7 points per game. Senior guard Quincy McKnight is adding 11.9 PPG and dishing out a team-high 5.4 dimes per contest. Sophomore wing Jared Rhoden is the Pirates’ leading rebounder with 6.9 RPG.
Butler has split its last four games. The Bulldogs notched home wins against No. 10 Villanova and Xavier, but they lost at Marquette and vs. Georgetown at home.
They entered Saturday’s game against Georgetown as 11-point ‘chalk,’ as the Hoyas were without their top two scorers due to injury. Butler got off to a slow start, though, falling behind 11-2. The Bulldogs made it a close game late in the contest, but Georgetown hit several clutch shots to grab the upset win as a +360 money-line underdog.
Butler senior guard Kamar Baldwin, who currently has 50/1 odds to win the John R. Wooden Award at DraftKings, is scoring a team-high 16.1 PPG. Senior big man Sean McDermott is the only other player averaging in double figures, scoring 11.0 PPG. He is a 40% shooter from the 3-point line.
Seton Hall plays a much faster pace than Butler, ranking No. 74 in KenPom’s adjusted tempo ratings. Butler likes to keep the game in the half court, sitting at No. 338. The Pirates are No. 10 in defensive efficiency, while the Bulldogs are No. 55.
The ‘over’ is on a 6-3 run for Seton Hall in its last nine games, while the ‘under’ has cashed in four of Butler’s last six. Eight of the Pirates’ 12 home games have gone ‘under’ the number.
The Pick: Seton Hall -5.5
Wednesday night’s game will go a long way in determining if the Pirates are able to win the Big East regular-season title. Powell has been too good all season to fade at this point. The defense is where Seton Hall will win this game, though.
Butler’s defense has struggled at times this season, which is something it cannot afford to do against one of the nation’s premier scorers. The Pirates have the No. 10 defense in college basketball, which matches up well against a Butler team that is better on the offensive end of the court than the defensive end. Seton Hall’s tempo gave the Bulldogs some issues the first time around, so it should play an even bigger role at home.