Butler vs. Middle Tennessee prediction and game preview, as the No. 4 seed Bulldogs and No. 12 seed Blue Raiders face off in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Butler coach Chris Holtmann looked so wiped after Thursday’s first-round game that his assistants told him it looked like he hadn’t slept for a week. He admitted Winthrop point guard Keon Johnson caused him plenty of insomnia before fourth-seeded Bulldogs pulled out a 76-64 win over the Eagles to move on to the second round of the South Region.
Friday might be another sleepless night for Holtmann.
Middle Tennessee backed up its shocking win over No. 2 seed Michigan State in the first round of last year’s Tournament by defeating another Big Ten team Thursday – No. 5 seed Minnesota. The 12th-seeded Blue Raiders held a six-point halftime lead and held on for a 81-72 victory over the Golden Gophers.
Now they’ll try for a better second-round result. After Middle Tennessee beat the Spartans last year, it was crushed by No. 10 seed Syracuse 75-50 as the Orange made their way to the Final Four. The moment shouldn’t shock the Blue Raiders as much this year.
Butler vs. Middle Tennessee Game Preview
Date: Saturday, March 17
Venue: Bradley Center, Milwaukee, Wisc.
Butler Wins If …
… Avery Woodson has another hot-shooting performance. Woodson took all 10 of his field-goal attempts against Winthrop from behind the 3-point line, draining six – including five in the first half – on his way to scoring a team-high 18 points. Solid play from backup guard Tyler Lewis also helped, as he dominated a stretch in the second half by getting to the basket. He finished with nine points and eight assists and was the most important player on the floor for a good chunk of the final 20 minutes.
Middle Tennessee Wins If …
… it didn’t max out against Minnesota. The Blue Raiders shot 55.9 percent from the field and 57.9 percent from 3-point range in last year’s win over Michigan State, then dropped to 29.7 percent form the floor and 33.3 percent from distance in the loss to Syracuse.
Middle Tennessee was hot against the Gophers, too, and held on for the win behind Reggie Upsahw, who scored 19 points. If the Blue Raiders can keep their composure and continue to think of this as a business trip, they’ll be able to pull off another upset. The possibility of playing in the Sweet 16 in Memphis – not far from Murfreesburo – should be enough to keep them focused.
Butler vs. Middle Tennessee Prediction
Middle Tennessee’s win over Minnesota wasn’t just a classic 12 seed/5 seed upsets. The Blue Raiders legitimately were the better team. I don’t think that’ll be the case against the Bulldogs, but that doesn’t mean MTSU can’t pull off an upset. And I think it will. Jacroey Williams and Reggie Upshaw push the Blue Raiders into the Sweet 16.
Butler vs. MTSU Score Prediction: Middle Tennessee 80, Butler 73