March Madness Betting Free Pick: Butler vs. Syracuse

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A pair of 30-win teams square off at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City on Thursday night when the #5 Butler Bulldogs face the #1 Syracuse Orange in March Madness betting action.

What's At Stake: A berth in the regional final is on the line for the winner of this one. The victor will take on either #2 Kansas State or #6 Xavier with one of the four slots in the Final Four in Indianapolis being at stake.

College Basketball Odds: Syracuse -6 at JustBet

Butler Notes: The Bulldogs have the longest winning streak in the nation at 21 games, and they were the only team in the entire country to win every single one of their conference clashes this year. They're a team built on defense (59.8 points per game allowed), and at times, if opposing teams can get their offenses working, Butler will struggle. The team doesn't have a truly prolific three point shooter on it, and the team is only +2.7 rebounds per game for the season, which is a suspect number considering the strength of the teams left in this field.

Syracuse Notes: F Arinze Onuaku was ruled out for the third straight game on Wednesday with his knee injury suffered in the Big East Tournament. Syracuse is the only team in the country left standing that can say that it shot better than 50 percent from the floor as a team this season (51.7%). The Orange are also three point sharpshooters, connected on 39.2 percent of their chances from long distance. At 81.6 points per game, HC Jim Boeheim has one of the highest scoring offenses left in the dance.

Players to Watch

F Gordon Hayward, Butler Bulldogs: A ton of pressure was heaped onto Hayward when F Matt Howard got himself into foul trouble against the Racers on Sunday. Hayward really hasn't answered the bell though of late, posting six straight games below his scoring average of 15.9 points per game. It has also been since the Horizon League semifinals since he posted a double-double, which is hard to believe considering the fact that he went for five double-doubles in a row before that.

G Andy Rautins, Syracuse Orange: With all due respect to F Wesley Johnson, Rautins is going to be the key man in this matchup for the Cuse. There isn't a player on Butler that can stick with Rautins from the outside if he gets going. He shot a shade over 40 percent from downtown this year and has already scored 35 points in this tournament, including 24 against Gonzaga. He nailed five of his nine three point attempts against the Zags, and will probably be asked to turn the tide of this Sweet 16 betting battle several times with momentum changing shots.

Trends of Note

-Butler is 21-7 ATS in its L/28 games as an underdog
-Butler is 2-8 ATS in its L/10 neutral site games
-Syracuse is 4-0 ATS in its L/4 NCAA Tournament games as a favorite
-Syracuse is 9-1 ATS in its L/20 games following an SU win of at least 20 points
-Syracuse is 9-2 ATS in its L/11 games as a favorite of less than seven points
-Syracuse is 30-11 ATS in its L/41 games overall

Final Analysis: With all of those trends in mind, it's very, very hard to pick against the Big East reps in this one. Syracuse just has too much muscle all over the court for Butler to be able to keep up. Unless the Bulldogs plan on bringing their A+ effort and a lot of magical luck, they won't be able to compete in this one, even if Syracuse is playing without Onuaku for the third straight game. Too much Johnson. Too much Rautins. Too much trouble for the Horizon League champions.

Selection: Syracuse -6

Lou Palumbo is the founder and part owner of the Cappersinfo.com Sports Handicapping Community. He's been writing and posting free picks and sports handicapping strategies on the Cappersinfo forums and website for 15 years now. He enjoys handicapping just as much as he did from the very first day he built the original Cappersinfo website.

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