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Butler vs. Houston, Maui Invitational: Preview, how to watch, odds

Can the Dawgs pull off a stunner out west?

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star Grace Hollars/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

Butler has never met an upset they didn’t like. The Bulldogs have pulled off plenty of stunners over the years, even after joining the Big East. The 3-1 Dawgs will have to conjure up quite the effort in their Maui Invitational opener. They drew the 3-0 Houston Cougars to start things off, and the Cougars are no slouches. They figure to be the favorite in the American again and possess a scary good defense yet again. The Cougars come into this game fresh off a 67-47 defeat of the Virginia Cavaliers. Last we saw BU, they were getting trounced by the Michigan State Spartans at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

How to watch Butler vs. Houston

Time: 4:30 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN2
Watch Online: ESPN App

Betting Odds

(via DraftKings Sportsbook)

Spread: Houston -9.5 | Butler +9.5
Total: 123
Moneyline: Houston -475 | Butler +350

Houston will have the best player on the court in junior Marcus Sasser. The 6-foot-2 Sasser out of Dallas is one of the best guards in the nation. He has gotten off to a torrid start this season. He’s a 48 percent shooter from 3, has been shooting effectively and efficiently, and picking up steals at an accelerated rate. So far he has games of two and three steals on the season. He’s also put up 25- and 26-point showings and a game where he made five 3-pointers.

Apart from everything else, Butler will have to absolutely contain Sasser if they want any chance of winning. Having the best player on the floor helps out in so many ways. But since there’s a pretty big talent gap between BU and the Cougars, it’s even more exponential in this case. Accounting for him, especially on the perimeter, is imperative as imperative gets.

A hot-shooting day could propel Butler to victory. It’s worth noting that this team has been shooting the 3-ball at a very high rate this year. Their 52.6 percent 3-point rate (3PA/FGA) ranks ninth in the country. This will be a great test to see if BU is still fearless about it too. Teams are shooting at will against Houston’s perimeter defense. The 3-point rate there is at 55.7 percent, the third-highest rate in the country. Granted, the Cougars are only giving up 25.8 percent from 3 this year. But this will prove to be an interesting battle within the battle.

Butler has held up their end, for the most part, this season. The showing against Michigan State was disconcerting, though not totally unexpected. I expect some fight out of the Dawgs after that defeat, but ultimately I think the result may wind up the same. The Cougars will likely overwhelm this team in the second half and take off and run from there. They’re the favorite to win this tournament, especially since Oregon had that showing against BYU this week. I see Butler playing valiantly, but the Cougars taking it.