Free NCAA Tournament Picks: Bet Syracuse +9.5 Against North Carolina

Joe Gavazzi

Friday, April 1, 2016 6:30 PM UTC

Friday, Apr. 1, 2016 6:30 PM UTC

Syracuse and North Carolina tip off the night cap of the Final Four on Saturdayevening as televised by TBS TV. North Carolina is favored by 9 points on the NCAA Basketball odds board.

Syracuse vs. North Carolina (-9-) 8:50 ET
These ACC Conference foes met twice this season. In Boeheim’s return from a nine game suspension the Orange hosted the Heels at the Carrier Dome. North Carolina prevailed 84-73, despite shooting just 3/16 from behind the arc. The rematch came on February 29th in North Carolina’s LHG. Again, North Carolina prevailed, despite knocking down just 6 of 25 triples. A combined 9/41 from behind the arc is only 22%. If you can only knock down 1 out of 5 three point shots against the Syracuse zone, it seems unlikely that you would get the sweep. That is the scary part of making a selection on the Orange, as they lost both games despite Boeheim’s fabled 2-3 zone doing its job. Syracuse did little better from long range, going a combined 14-51 (27%) in the two games. 


North Carolina
With the best statistical numbers in the Tournament, North Carolina is a (17.2) three star fundamental team. To again remind everyone the meaning of that rating, you are a three star fundamental team if you have a positive rebound margin (8.2), a positive TO/assist margin (+6.8), and a positive net TO margin (+2.2). The sum of those, 17.2, is the highest among any team in the NCAA. It is no surprise that North Carolina has made it to the Final Four. Note that when three star fundamental teams play teams who do NOT have a three star rating, these teams are 22-15 ATS (60%) in the NCAA Tournament this year. That is another scary reason to favor the Orange in this matchup. North Carolina enters this game with a 9 game winning streak; 5 more than any of the other Final Four participants, none of whom won their CCT. Since the post season (CCT) began, Carolina has whipped Pitt by 17, Notre Dame by 32, Virginia by 4, FGCU by 16, Providence by 19, Indiana by 15, and Notre Dame (again) by 14. With Johnson, Meeks, and Jackson up front, along with Page and Berry on the perimeter, there are few weaknesses for North Carolina. But remember that Achilles heel of North Carolina, which finds them knocking down just 5.4 triples per game at 31%. 


For a team who wasn’t supposed to make the post season party (they lost 5 of 6 going in, including a 3 game losing streak), the Orange have done quite well for themselves. To date in this event, they have recorded a 19 point win over Dayton, beat MTSU by 25, took out Gonzaga by 3, and beat Virginia by 6 after trailing last weekend in that game by as many as 16 points in the closing minutes of the game. For those keeping score, that is 4-0 SU ATS, off consecutive underdog wins, with point spread coverage of 64 points (16 PPG) in the NCAA Tournament. 

There are few results that would surprise me in this game, as any outcome within 15 points of the line is thinkable. The athletic, but very young, pressure defense of the Orange that succeeded so well against Virginia could actually backfire on them against the North Carolina team that thrives in the open court. Rather than resulting in a 6 point win as they did vs Virginia, it could result in a 20 point North Carolina blowout. And Boeheim knows it. At the other end of the spectrum, the Syracuse zone appears to be an ideal weapon against North Carolina. Their athletic front line can pack the paint against the larger North Carolina front, yet they are rangy enough, all starters 6’4 or taller, to sprint to the perimeter to defend three pointers (the zone will look much like a pack line defense in this example). In any event, Boeheim, who has coached it for 40 years, is well aware of how to use the strength of his players and hide their weaknesses against every type of opponent. 


Final Analysis
With North Carolina a bit over confident after beating Syracuse twice, it would be no surprise to find the Orange competitive throughout. As described above, this game could well be decided in the closing minutes when the Orange are forced to pick up the pace if behind. Lean to the Orange in a game that I believe Syracuse could actually win. I invite you to put the NCAA Basketball odds in your favor and join me in my NCAA Basketball pick on Syracuse in this Final Four contest.

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Syracuse +9.5
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

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