Bet Syracuse & Under With Your NCAA Tournament Picks vs. Dayton

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, March 17, 2016 8:50 PM UTC

Thursday, Mar. 17, 2016 8:50 PM UTC

Your first tipoff in NCAA Tournament action on Friday (12:15 p.m. ET) is from the Midwest Region in St. Louis when No. 10 Syracuse, a controversial choice, plays No. 7 Dayton. The Flyers are -1 on Heritage's NCAA Basketball odds with a total of 129.

Orange Just Aren't Deserving
Let's just put all our cards on the table and say that Syracuse has no right being in this tournament over the likes of mid-major regular-season conference champions like Monmouth, Saint Mary's or San Diego State. The Orange (19-13) finished just 9-9 in the ACC, which was tied for ninth. It lost its conference tournament opener to Pittsburgh.

Syracuse has an RPI of 68th, which is the worst ever given to an at-large team. Here are some teams with better RPI marks that didn't make the Big Dance: South Carolina, Monmouth, Hofstra, Davidson, Georgia, George Washington, William & Mary, Georgia Tech. USC and Monmouth totally should have been in over SU.

Orange backers can point to good wins over UConn, Texas A&M, Miami, Duke and Notre Dame, all ranked when beaten by SU and all NCAA Tournament teams. They can also say the team was hurt when Coach Jim Boeheim was suspended earlier this season for nine games and the Orange went 4-5 in those nine.

But I can point to bad losses to Georgetown, an absolutely terrible Big East team St. John's (one win in conference) and Florida State. I can point to Syracuse losing five of its final six games and getting in over two teams, Clemson and Virginia Tech, that finished a game ahead of them in the ACC standings. As for Boeheim? He was suspended because his school cheated. Why reward that?

"This team was in a hole and dug its way out,'' Boeheim said to reporters on Selection Sunday, referencing his team's five wins against Top-50 opponents. "It looks like the committee valued top wins, which they always have."

But is Syracuse one of the best 68 teams in the country? Naturally. So by that metric, I guess you have to live with this. But it at worst should have been forced into a Final Four play-in game. The Orange's star is senior Michael Gbinije, an All-ACC Second Team member who originally started his career at Duke. He has scored in double figures in every game this season and leads the club at 17.8 ppg to go with 4.4 assists and 4.1 rebounds. Syracuse is always a tough out in the Big Dance because of that tough-to-prepare-for 2-3 zone defense. SU wins by hitting its 3-pointers and playing great defense out there. The Orange hold opponents to 30.2 percent from long range, ninth in the country.

The Orange are 16-15 against the spread on NCAA Tournament odds and 17-14 'over/under.


Flyers Have Recent Big Dance Success
Dayton (25-7) tied for the Atlantic 10 Conference regular-season title with VCU and St. Bonaventure (which also deserved a bid over Syracuse). The top-seeded Flyers lost in the conference tournament semifinals to Saint Joseph's, 82-79. Dayton's best wins this season are against Iowa, Vanderbilt and VCU but it also lost to La Salle and Rhode Island.

It's the second straight year in the Big Dance for Coach Archie Miller's team. Dayton has won at least one game in each of those. Last year as a No. 11 seed, UD upset No. 6 Providence 66-53. Then it lost by six to No. 3 Oklahoma. In 2014, Dayton was a No. 11 seed again and upset No. 3 Syracuse 55-53 to reach the Sweet 16. Dayton has won five NCAA Tournament games the previous two years, one of six schools (Kentucky, Wisconsin, Arizona, Michigan State and UConn) to accomplish that.

It might surprise you to know that the Flyers have won eight straight against teams from the ACC. Charles Cooke is Dayton's best player as he was named All-Atlantic 10 First Team and part of the All-Defensive Team. He leads the team in scoring at 15.7 points per game, while adding 6.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks per game.

The Flyers are a good defensive team, allowing only 65.8 points per game and ranking 19th in defensive efficiency. They are 10-0 this year when scoring at least 80 points and 9-0 when allowing 60 points or fewer. Dayton is an excellent 8-2 in games decided by three points or fewer. The Flyers are 13-17-1 ATS on NCAA Tournament picks and 14-16-1 O/U.

That's a small total but I'm still going 'under.' I'll lean Syracuse. The Orange are 5-2 ATS in their past seven neutral-site games. Dayton is 1-8-1 ATS in its past 10 games. The 'under' is 4-1 in the Orange's past five NCAA Tournament games. It's 6-2 in Dayton's past eight in the Big Dance.

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NCAA Basketball Picks: Syracuse +1.5 & Under 129
Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker

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