Bear with me before I give you my pick for today’s game. I have important things I need to disclose before I can make my selection. I have already told my wife this and I think it’s time to put it out in the open so that everyone knows. My therapist tells me that I need to be open and honest and that’s what I am trying to do now, because I have been cheating.
It’s not like I went out looking to have an affair, it just kind of happened. We had been together about 10 years and there had been some low times, but it was mostly good. We were stuck in the middle of a low time though. In my mind, I couldn’t help but think we had peaked a few years ago. Things weren’t the same as they were back then. We were not around each other as often and we didn’t go as many places as we used to. I just wasn’t getting the same level of excitement as I did back in the day. Then, and this may have been the first mistake, on Feb 13, 2010 I went on that fateful trip to Las Vegas. It was on this trip that I cheated on the Florida Gators and started rooting for the Butler Bulldogs.
My wife and I check into the MGM and I turn to ESPN to see how we are doing against Xavier. It was ugly. The announcers keep referring to this game as a play in game for that year’s tourney. They would do this during 3-4 more games for the rest of the season. I didn’t want to wait for someone who had to play themselves in to the tourney. I needed March bets now! So I look around the sports book to see who else may be out there, and Butler catches my eye. My wife is a Horizon league grad so I had seen the Bulldogs before from time to time, but never really paid that much attention to them. That day, they had beat Clevelend State by 12, easily covering the spread. Matt Howard and Gordon Hayward both put up pretty little double doubles. They hadn’t lost a game since December 22nd, and just before that they had beat that same Xavier team that was beating up Florida before my eyes.
Well that day, I went all the way with the Butler Bulldogs. I bought a NCAA Champion ticket at 75-1 odds. Seemed like a bargain for a team that had been ranked in the top ten to start the season. I watched them continue winning. They won 18 games in a row to end the regular season, including a blowout during Bracket Busters on ESPN. They won the Horizon league tourney and seemed to get all the breaks during the NCAA tourney. They played 2 double digit seeds the first weekend. Then after upsetting Syracuse, they played a Kansas State that was just coming off a double overtime thriller. They met a 5th seeded Michigan State in the final four and they played Duke close for 40 minutes. I was devastated when Hayward missed those two shots in the last 30 seconds against Duke. First the fadeaway over Zoubek, then the half court heave that was so so close.
Anyway, all the Butler love brings me to today. Florida is a 3 point favorite against Butler for a shot at the Final Four. I still watch Butler games when they come on ESPNU. My wife was excited when YSU finally got a win over Butler. They are repeating what happened last season. They started the year highly ranked, lost a few games midseason to drop from the view of the voters, and then rallied to have a great ending. That YSU loss was the turning point of their season. They have really turned it on since then. I know this Butler team more than every other non-Gator team in the country. I can say with confidence that Florida will beat them and beat them handily today.
Florida matches up perfectly for this team. Matt Howard has been playing great for 18 months now, but he will have a bad game today. He thrives on taking centers away from the basket and punishing perimeter players on the inside, but he has not faced a team like Florida. Macklin can eat him up under the basket and Parsons can shut him down on the outside while still being big enough to not get decimated on the post. And Tyus can shut him down both places. Howard will have a subpar game today and I can almost guarantee will foul out. He will have a few good minutes when using those herky jerky white guy post up moves but it wont be nearly enough.
Andrew Smith will get eaten alive on the inside. Norad, Vanzant and Mack are a great set of guards but don’t matchup well with Boynton and Walker. Walker will love having 2 guards in the rotation that are only 6 feet tall. The Gators will easily cover the 3 point spread today and while it will hurt me a little on the inside, my heart and my wallet will both be rooting for it to happen.