Defenses Will Rule Between Former Rivals Syracuse & Connecticut

Rainman M.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 3:35 PM UTC

Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 3:35 PM UTC

Syracuse (6-1) plays UConn (6-2) tonight at 9 ET on ESPN in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden. The Orange are favored by 5 points with a total of 131.5.

Free NCAAB Pick: 'Under' 131.5Best Line Offered: Bookmaker

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Syracuse vs. Connecticut

More than 60% of UConn's scoring and 75% of UConn's rebounding departed in the offseason. The Huskies' top scorer and two best rebounders, all seniors, averaged 30 points and 17 rebounds combined per game and exhausted their eligibility. Additionally, three players with meaningful game-time experience transferred.

Point guard Jalen Adams is the Huskies' most reliable player. He averages 26.8% of the Huskies' possession and 32% of their shots. He has a weak shooting percentage. But he uses his ball-handling skills to make plays. He ranks 303rd in assist rate and 325th in turnover rate.

Guard Antwoine Anderson is a graduate transfer from Fordham. Coach Kevin Ollie hoped that he would improve UConn's ball-handling statistics. But Anderson's assist and turnover rates have worsened since last year. Despite his struggles, his playing time has increased due to the injury of guard Alterique Gilbert three games ago. Gilbert had been averaging 28 minutes per game and committing .6 fewer turnovers per game.

Guard Christian Vitale had gained experience while replacing Gilbert after his injury last season. His 149th-ranked turnover rate justifies his starting position. He has enjoyed the largest uptake in minutes since Gilbert's injury, but could not help his team beat either Columbia or Monmouth in regulation.

Three first-year starters were injured last year -- Gilbert, guard Terry Larrier and forward Mamadou Diarra. Larrier is the Huskies' best 3-point shooter, averaging 41% from three. Diarra, at 6-8, is second behind backup center Josh Carlton, who is 6-9, as UConn's biggest player.

Syracuse Also A New-Look Team

Syracuse, like UConn, lost significant scorers. Grad transfers Andrew White and John Gillon and Tyler Lydon were the Cuse's best 3-point shooters and 3 of their top 4 scorers.

Frank Howard, one of Cuse's two returning starters, had been replaced by Gillon at point guard after an 8-6 start. Syracuse's 6-1 record with a soft schedule masks how unproven Howard is. At 6-foot-5, though, he provides good defense with his length. He ranks 89th in steals.

Shooting guard Tyus Battle, the team's other returning starter, is Syracuse's top playmaker. He averages 30% of their shots and produces 20 points per game. Forwards Marek Dolezaj and Oshae Brissett lead Syracuse with 6.6 and 9.7 rebounds per game, respectively.

Center Paschal Chukwu is 4 inches taller than UConn's tallest player and averages 2.6 blocks per game. His backup Bourama Sidibe likewise owns UConn's players in height and averages 1.1 blocks per game. Sidibe and Battle use their length to average over 1 steal per game.

The Verdict

UConn lacks the 3-point shooting ability to exploit the weakness of Syracuse's zone defense. The Orange rank 4th in that 42.9% of their points allowed come from behind the arc. But UConn ranks 288th with a 30% 3-point shooting percentage. The Huskies love to run in transition in order to compensate for their bottom-ranked half-court offense. However, the Orange rank55th in blocks allowed and 69th in steals allowed. With their size and length, they can also outrebound UConn, which will struggle to score because its won't achieve the steals, blocks and rebounds needed to acquire points in transition.

Adams will get his lion's share of points, as will Battle. Both teams are struggling to replace missed offensive production. Oddsmakers have yet to account for this regression in scoring especially for Syracuse, whose 'over/under' record is 1-5. UConn's is 0-2 away from home. Both teams' slow tempo, ranking outside the top 200, and top-70 defensive efficiency, will help keep this game 'under' on our NCAAB Picks.

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