The Butler Bulldogs and Baylor Bears are both off to fine starts in the 2019 season. One team will lose tonight and it could ruin a team’s perfect record. Butler is 9-0 going into this first real big road test. The Bulldogs did win at Ole Miss, but the Rebels are a fringe top-75 team. Baylor is very much a top-20 team.
College basketball betting odds show the Bears as a five-point home favorite in Waco. The total of 131 is in a very precarious spot because of that line, which would suggest the potential for a foul fest at the end of the game.
This is a tough spot for both teams. Baylor is coming off of a nice home win over Arizona and Butler is coming off of a huge home win against a slumping Florida team. Butler is 9-0 and the only close game has been a one-point win over Stanford in a neutral setting. The rest of Butler’s wins have all been by at least eight points.
Baylor lost to Washington up in Alaska in the second game of the season, but played pretty well overall in that game. It wasn’t a bad loss by any means against the Mike Hopkins zone defense in a neutral setting. Baylor had a really nice offensive performance against Villanova earlier this season with 1.397 points per possession, but the defense allowed 1.252 PPP. That is the only game this season in which Baylor allowed more than a point per possession.
Butler’s only game like that was the close win over Stanford. These two teams really have similar resumes to this point. One big difference is in the tempo department, where Butler ranks 340th in adjusted tempo per Bart Torvik. Baylor is more around the national average in 208th.
Aside from that, the two teams really do stack up comparably. Butler is 14th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 35th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Baylor is 12th and 41st, respectively. Butler is 52nd from 3 at 37% and 15th from 2 at 56.6%. Baylor is 41st from 3 at 37.8%, but just 228th from 2 at 47.2%. Against Washington and Arizona, Baylor combined to shoot 26-of-76 from 2, which is why that number is so low. Baylor also really padded its three-point percentage against Central Arkansas going 18-of-33 and Maryland Eastern Shore going 11-of-19.
With that in mind, there may be more falsehoods to the Baylor resume to this point. Butler has already played three Quadrant 1 games per Torvik and has won all three of them, but some of those teams have fallen off a bit since. Missouri, Stanford, and Florida were those games, but Missouri has not played well and Florida is in shambles for some reason.
Baylor is 2-0 in Quadrant 1 games with the Villanova and Arizona wins. Arizona was only 14-of-52 from the floor in that game on Saturday. The concern here, however, would be Baylor’s offensive performance. The two worst performances have come against the two best defensive opponents and Butler is very much in that same breath.
Using Torvik’s Game Score formula, Butler has only played one game below 89 on the scale that goes from 1 to 100. That was a lackluster win over Morehead State by 18 at home. Baylor’s lowest performance is a 75 against Coastal Carolina, but there have been some other red flags here and there.
These two teams are really similar and that makes Butler +5 worth a grab in this one. The Bulldogs are a veteran team, so the hostile setting in Waco won’t be an issue. Seniors Sean McDermott and Kamar Baldwin have been excellent and junior Bryce Nze has been extremely efficient at the rim.
Butler has been able to slow everybody down, playing to 67 or fewer possessions in all nine wins. Baylor has sped up a bit the last two games and has played some more up-tempo games. We’ll see if Baylor tries to push the tempo or if Butler can control the pace again. An up-tempo game isn’t that bad for a Butler team with a lot of scoring threats.
Pick: Butler +5
Lean: Over 131