College Basketball Odds, Picks & Predictions for Providence vs. Butler (Sunday, February 20)
Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Bo Hodges (1), forward Bryce Nze (10), guard Chuck Harris (3) and guard Aaron Thompson (2).
Providence vs. Butler Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Providence came up short in its game-of-the-year home loss to Villanova on Tuesday, in one of the most electric atmosphere’s of the entire college basketball season to date. That game was just the second time that the Dunkin Donuts Center, known as the Dunk, hosted a regular-season top-10 matchup.
Even though the Friars came up short in that game, there’s a natural letdown spot following the emotion of the game, and now Providence has a tricky, early-Sunday-start road trip to Butler and Hinkle Fieldhouse.
The Bulldogs have much less rest than the Friars after they were embarrassed at St. John’s on Friday night, losing by 34 points. Butler’s lack of rest and travel from New York City ahead of a home tipoff less than 48 hours later all have to factor in, along with the potential letdown spot for Providence.
Butler has been dealing with health issues, including the absence of senior guard Bo Hodges on Friday night and the limited performance of forward Bryce Nze, who played but was a game-time decision on Friday night. It’s hard to back the Bulldogs without Hodges on Sunday, but if he’s able to go, Butler is ripe to pull off the upset.
Perhaps no team in the entire country has driven a bigger wedge through the analytics and eye test/results debates than the Friars, who have a top-four seed resumé and are deserving of a ranking in the top 15 based on the results of the games played on the court this season. The committee placed them on the four-seed line following the loss to Villanova by five points.
Yet the more predictive metrics like Bart Torvik and KenPom have refused to budge and upgrade the Friars beyond the top 35 in their ratings. Bart Torvik currently ranks Providence 38th, KenPom has them 44th, and ShotQuality suggests the Friars 20-3 record should really be 13-10. SQ has them as the most fortunate team in the nation, and KenPom and Bart Torvik are in agreement there.
Providence is the eighth most experienced team in the country, a well-coached squad that is pretty good from the free throw line. That’s a major reason that the Friars are good in close games. But is 9-1 in close games decided by five points or fewer really sustainable long term? History would suggest otherwise for almost all teams, who tend to regress with close game luck closer to the typical mean.
The Friars offense is excellent in transition based on the metrics, but when they tend to struggle, it usually comes in the halfcourt. Providence is 62nd nationally in transition SQ, but just 183rd in the halfcourt, and it is outside the top 150 in perimeter shooting.
Given how slowly Butler plays and how well the Bulldogs force teams to play at their pace, it could cause some issues for the Friars to execute in the halfcourt.
Butler had the second biggest win of its season a week ago at home against Marquette, taking out the Golden Eagles in a six-point home victory that was generally comfortable throughout. After following that win with a road triumph at DePaul on Tuesday without Hodges, it seemed that the Bulldogs might be finally taking a step forward and on the path of ending a poor season on a high note.
But Friday night wasn’t just a loss at St. John’s. It was a beatdown. The Red Storm scored 46 first-half points and led by 16 at the break. You’d expect some type of response from the Bulldogs on Sunday, defending home court against the team with the best record in the league.
There’s not much to like about the Bulldogs offense at all, which ranks outside the top 300 in ShotQuality in both the transition and halfcourt. But one sign of optimism has been improvement in two key areas since conference play began. Butler has taken better care of the ball offensively — a key to keeping the Friars out of transition — and the Bulldogs have improved at shooting from inside the 3-point arc.
Villanova exposed the Friars’ overrated interior defense, and Butler actually is fifth in the conference in 2-point field goal percentage. Butler can’t really shoot from the perimeter to stretch the Friars’ defense, but it can attack downhill and get to the rim.
Providence vs. Butler Betting Pick
I’d expect Nze to play again because he did go on Friday, and he was able to play 25 minutes in the blowout loss, so I wouldn’t expect any limitations on him for this game. The main question is Hodges. The difference between Butler with and without him is quite stark this season.
He scored 17 points at Providence in a seven-point defeat earlier this season, a game that Butler covered on the road. Hodges was instrumental in the dominant blowout home win against Creighton and played really well in near losses to Xavier, St. John’s and Creighton at the beginning of the February.
If Hodges doesn’t play, I’m not sure how the Bulldogs will generate enough consistent offense to score on Providence, even though the Friars do have some regression coming. But if Hodges is in the lineup and able to play come Sunday, Butler is a live home underdog that could catch Providence flat following the biggest home game of its season and arguably, last decade.