Butler vs. Penn State Odds
The Gavitt Games, the annual series of tilts between Big East and Big Ten foes, kicks off Monday night with an intriguing match-up between two teams that have been stuck near the bottom of their respective conferences in recent history.
Penn State will host Butler in State College, providing both teams with an early chance to gauge their new-look teams.
The Nittany Lions are favored at home, fresh off two blowout wins over lesser competition. Can they keep up the hot start?
Butler is now under the tutelage of former Ohio State head coach Thad Matta, his first job since leaving Columbus with health issues. He takes over a Butler program that has been in disarray since it’s heyday earlier this century. In the 11 years since Brad Stevens led the Bulldogs to back-to-back national finals, Butler has only 5 NCAA Tournament appearances and a lone trip to the Sweet 16.
Matta is Butler’s fourth coach since Stevens departed for the NBA. In that chunk of time, the Bulldogs have played in three different conferences. Overall, it has felt like a program that can’t catch its breath.
Matta, aided by some returning talent from last year’s squad, looks to bring some stability to the program. Junior guard Chuck Harris is the key name, having averaged double-figures in scoring in each of his first two seasons on campus.
Harris and his other returning contributors are flanked by two key transfers. Eric Hunter was a key role player for a good Purdue team last year and should be able to bring that and more as a fifth-year senior.
The difference maker should be Manny Bates, formerly of NC State. In 2020-21, he was a really promising sophomore for the Wolfpack, posting 9.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game. Last season, in the first minute of the first game of the season, he suffered an injury that sidelined him for the year.
If he is fully healthy and progresses the way you’d expect, he could be a major factor for Butler and among the best bigs in the Big East.
In Micah Shrewsberry’s first year at the helm in State College, the Nittany Lions saw a mixed bag of results. Facing the gauntlet of a Big Ten schedule, Penn State hung tough and finished 7-13 in conference. Penn State competed all season, but often came up short and finished with a 6-10 record in games decided by seven points or fewer.
Though the Lions lost center a few contributors, Shrewsberry was able to add talent from in-state mid-major programs.
Andrew Funk brings a silky jump shot from Bucknell and should help space the floor. The key addition, however, was Camren Wynter, formerly of Drexel. He is a scorer against every level of the defense and racked up 27 games of 25+ points with the Dragons.
If he can elevate his game to handle power conference opponents, Penn State has a real chance to do more than compete in Big Ten games this season. Wynter, Shrewsberry and company could lock up Penn State’s first NCAA Tournament bid since 2011.
Butler vs. Penn State Betting Pick
This game will do wonders for projecting both of these teams against future opponents, yet there’s not a lot of information about either of these teams just yet.
In Butler’s lone game thus far, it routed a bad New Orleans team. Penn State has played twice, but both were blowouts against Winthrop and Loyola (MD), each of whom were expected to put up a better fight. Penn State easily covered spreads of 12.5 and 18.5 in those games.
Through a tiny sample size of just two games, Penn State leads the nation in effective field goal percentage. That isn’t likely to continue, yet Shrewsberry is building something on the offensive end of the floor. I’m buying that in November more than I’m believing in a quick turnaround by Matta.
This line is hovering around nine points, where I like the Nittany Lions. Anything higher than Penn State -9.5 feels like too much, so hopefully you nab the number there or better.
If you’re looking for a little analytical security blanket, KenPom loves Penn State, ranking the Lions 32nd when most models have them outside the top 50. The numbers there like Penn State in this game by 12, so taking the home team -9 feels like the right play.
Pick: Penn State-9