NCAA Basketball Pick on Syracuse to Give Virginia Trouble

LT Profits Sports Group

Monday, March 2, 2015 3:30 PM GMT

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The second ranked team in the country could have its hands full Monday when it hits the road as those Virginia Cavaliers (27-1, 10-0 away) pay a visit to the Syracuse Orange (18-11, 13-4 home) at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY at 7:00 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Syracuse as a home underdog for this contest with the current line at +6 with odds of -119.


Still Undefeated on the Road
Virginia certainly deserves its second ranking as its only loss this season came to Duke at home, meaning that the Cavaliers are perfect on the road at 10-0. Virginia’s calling card is stiff defense under Coach Tony Bennett, as it leads the entire country in defensive efficiency and ranks second in effective field goal percentage allowed at a mere 40.9 percent, trailing only top ranked Kentucky at an amazing 38.8 percent.

Syracuse is a team that has become accustomed to going to the NCAA Tournament every year, but the Orange will not be going to any tournaments this season due to a self-imposed post-season ban while the NCAA continues to investigate suspected past violations. The conspiracy theorists will be quick to point out though the Orange imposed the ban now because this is their weakest team in a long while and it may not have made the NCAA Tournament anyway.

Syracuse is just 18-11 overall and 9-7 inside the ACC and was a blowout losing NCAA Basketball pick 73-54 at Duke in its last game Saturday after playing the Blue Devils much tougher in an earlier meeting here as “The Dome” two weeks ago.


This is Syracuse’s Tournament Game?
The Orange had the lead for much of that first meeting before falling to Duke 80-72 on Valentine’s Day, and those kinds of home meetings vs. marquee teams are all that Syracuse has to play for this season. Well, tonight is Senior Night vs. the second ranked team in the nation and the Orange’s only remaining game after this is on the road at less glamorous NC State, so the Orange will probably approach this contest as if it were the National Championship Game.

That becomes doubly so when you consider that Syracuse has not forgotten an ugly 75-56 loss to the Cavaliers at Virginia the last time these teams met late last season. Now playing with greater emotion than usual really only helps if you have some talent to go with it, and while Syracuse is not very good offensively this season, its defense is certainly good enough to keep the Orange in this game in a frenzied atmosphere.

Granted the Orange have not put up Virginia-type numbers on defense, but they are still an excellent 34th in the country in defensive efficiency while allowing just a 46.1 effective field goal percentage and forcing turnovers 21.0 percent of the time vs. a national average of 19.2 percent with their customarily stiff zone defense.


Slow Virginia Pace Could Hurt ATS Cover
As for the Cavaliers, while the defense deservedly gets most of the credit for their success, they are also ranked 26th in the country in offensive efficiency while owning a good effective field goal percentage of 51.1 percent. However, while Virginia almost always ends up with a good shot, its offense if very methodical ranking 349th out of 351 Division I teams in tempo rating and that plodding approach can oftentimes make it difficult to cover point spreads.

Also keep in mind that starting guard Justin Anderson remains out with s fractured finger, and he was the Cavaliers’ leading scorer when he suffered the injury with 13.4 points per game. He has since been passed slightly in the scoring department by Malcolm Brogdon (13.7), but Brogdon and Anthony Gill (11.5) are now the only two active Virginia players averaging double-digits, with the next leading scorer contributing just 7.6 points per game.

The Cavs have gotten away with that thanks to a world class defense, but again, covering spreads is becoming more of an issue with only two scorers.


Just 3-7 ATS Last 10 Games
Virginia began this season underrated and thus was 12-4 ATS at one point, but the oddsmakers have caught up now and when you add in the slow pace while almost always being favored and the injury to Anderson, the ATS tide has turned and the Cavaliers are only 3-7 vs. the number in the last 10 games.

Tonight could easily be more of the same vs. an emotional opponent that is effectively playing its tournament game, so take the points with home standing Syracuse vs. Virginia on Monday.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Syracuse +6 (-119)