Representing the # 8 and # 9 seeds of the Mid-West Bracket, the 19-12 Texas Tech Red Raiders and the 21-10 Butler Bulldogs will meet in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday afternoon. Butler is playing in their 8th NCAA Tournament in the last 10 years but is coming off a disappointing 14-point loss to Providence in the Big East tournament. Texas Tech is back in the Big Dance for the first time since 2007. They pulled off 3 straight wins in February against Iowa State, Baylor and Oklahoma who were all ranked in the top 25 at the time. That stretch certainly helped them earn a berth as they have lost 3 of their last 4 games capped off by a loss to 12th seeded TCU in the Big 12 tournament.
The Bulldogs are a young team with only 3 seniors but have 4 players who average double digits in scoring. Kellen Dunham leads the team at 16.3 points per game while making 42.8 percent of his three point attempts. Forwards Kelan Martin at 16 points and 6.8 rebound per game and Roosevelt Jones at 14 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game help lead a balanced scoring attack, which averages over 80 points per game. Andrew Chrabascz is 6 foot 7 inch power forward that averages 10 points per game. Butler went 2-7 against the 4 other Big East teams that made the tournament.
Texas Tech has 7 different players who average at least 8 points per game and lead the Big 12 in free-throw shooting at 74.6 percent. Toddrick Gotcher leads the team with 11.1 points per game and also shoots 40 percent from three-point range. Devaugntah Williams and Aaron Ross both come off the bench and average double digits and Zach smith leads the team with 7.4 rebounds per game. As a team they are ranked 127th in the nation with 69.8 points allowed while averaging 72.4 points per game, which puts them at 195th. They were the worst rebounding team in the Big 12 and allowed their opponents to rebound over 30% of their missed shots.
The Bulldogs were 16-15 against the spread this year including 12-9 as the favorite. The Red Raiders went 20-11 against the spread this year but only 9-8 as the underdog. Butler finished 5th in the Big East while Texas Tech finished 7th in the Big 12. Red Raiders Coach Tubby Smith, who was the 2016 Big 12 coach of the year, is taking his 5th different team to the NCAA tournament. He has had a lot of success even winning it all with Kentucky in 1998. The last time Butler was an 8th seed was back in 2011 when they went to the championship game. Butler is favored in this game by 4 points in this game and has advanced to the second round in 7 of their last 8 appearances.
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