The Line: Tuesday, January 21

Providence -5.5 vs. Butler, 9 pm ET
The Bulldogs appear to be feeling the full effects of their inaugural season as a Big East member, and at 11-7 overall and just 1-5 in league play, it’s starting to look like our beloved Butler program won’t be joining us in the NCAA tournament later this year. Head coach Brandon Miller is still getting his kids to play hard every single night despite the lack of success, and it’s quite telling that the Bulldogs have gone to overtime in a remarkable 38.8% of their 18 games this season. At the other end, the Friars bring to the table one of the most consistent starting fives in America, and veteran Ed Cooley has a team that currently ranks in the top 80 nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The Friars took down an outstanding Creighton offense over the weekend to snatch their third consecutive Big East victory, and will have a huge size advantage here regardless of foul trouble. The key to victory tonight might end up being Providence big man Carson Desrosiers, a Wake Forest transfer who is evolving into one of the conference’s top defensive players for his elite shot-blocking and rebounding. The Friars are already plenty dangerous offensively with two 6-foot-9 starting forwards (Kadeem Batts and Tyler Harris) each capable of stepping out and hitting threes, and having Desrosiers playing at such a high level seems to be what continues to drive Cooley’s team past opponents. It’s safe to expect a tough first half performance from Miller’s gritty Butler squad in a hostile environment tonight, but the Friars are too much of a matchup nightmare and won’t slip up at home. Providence by 8.

Season record: 77-51-2

Last 5 days
Jan. 20 (1-0)
Jan. 19 (0-1)
Jan. 18 (0-2)
Jan. 17 (0-1)
Jan. 16 (2-0)

Monthly
December: 28-17 (62.22%)
November: 36-22-2 (62.06%)

(AP Photo – Stew Milne)