College hoops are finally back tonight, and in a big way. With over 100 games on the schedule, everyone who was going through college basketball withdrawal can finally bask in the glory of tonight’s loaded slate. One of those games will be played on FS1, as the Butler Bulldogs will host the Eastern Michigan Eagles tonight at 8:00 PM EST.
With both teams having different experiences in the transfer portal this offseason, I like the Bulldogs to cover a big number tonight at home.
Eastern Michigan got a lot of buzz and eyes on them last season due to the addition of Emoni Bates to their roster. While the recent NBA draft pick did lead the team in scoring, the Eagles still finished the year with an 8-23 record. Now, the Eagles will head into this season without Bates and their third-leading scorer, Noah Farrakhan, who transferred out of the program,
Without their first and third leading scorer, the Eagles will need to rely on Tyson Acuff to carry the offense after he finished last year averaging 14.3 points per game. EMU picked up their wins last year primarily when their offense could not miss, but their lack of scoring depth this season could be a real problem. Acuff is the only returning player that averaged in double figures last season, and as a team, the Eagles ranked 245th in the country in effective field goal percentage.
Unless players like Orlando Lovejoy and Legend Geeter step up in a big way offensively, the Eagles will have a hard time staying in games, especially if they don’t improve defensively. EMU was one of the worst defensive teams in the country last season, as they ranked 356th in average points allowed per game and 355th in effective field goal percentage allowed. Those numbers won’t get the job done in the MAC, and they certainly won’t do it tonight against a Butler team that attacked the portal hard.
Butler had one of the lowest-scoring offenses in the country last year, averaging just 65.3 points per game. That should not be the case this season, though, as brought in Posh Alexander, D.J Davis, and Pierre Brooks from the transfer portal. Alexander and Davis shot over 40% last season, so the Bulldogs' offense will be a night-and-day difference from last year to this year.
The new-look Butler Bulldogs are currently listed as (-15.5) point favorites, and I’ll be backing them for my play. To put it simply, one team got drastically better this offseason, while the other arguably got far worse. Butler is currently ranked 96th in KenPom’s preseason rankings, while the Eagles are coming in at 314th.
Butler was missing a true-scoring threat last year, but now they have multiple guys who can carry the load offensively. One of the other significant areas that the Bulldogs will be improved in this year is rebounding. By the end of last year, Butler was 276th in defensive rebounding percentage, but with the addition of center Andre Screen, they should get a boost in that area.
With those two areas addressed, the Bulldogs should be able to light up an Eagles defense that allowed 8.5 made threes, 13.7 assists, and 9.5 offensive rebounds per game last season. Tyson Acuff will not be able to offset these defensive issues with his scoring, so I have a hard time seeing a game where the Eagles' offense can keep pace with their defense. Butler worked hard this offseason to improve their roster, and I think we see it pay off tonight with a blowout opening night win at home.
Butler Bulldogs (-15.5)(-115 on BetMGM)