The odds for today’s Sweet 16 games are now available to us and we’re ready to find the value. One game in particular catches my eye: Syracuse vs. Houston. Supported by the following in-depth analysis, I will recommend a play to place at sportsbooks on both the spread and the total for this game.
Syracuse Orange vs. Houston Cougars
Saturday, March 27, 2021 – 09:55 PM EDT at Hinkle Fieldhouse
Syracuse Response To Houston Defense: Misdirection
Memphis, in its late-season near-upset wins over Houston, showed ways to counter the Cougar defense. One way to counter aggressiveness is with misdirection. Look at 15:00 in the following video:
The Memphis player fakes the handoff. Because Houston likes to double team, two Cougar players bite on the handoff. Because the Tiger player still has the ball, he now has an open path to the basket.
For ball screens, Memphis hit the roll man as soon as Cougar help came and before the roller got to the basket. So the Tigers executed a short roll instead of a long roll.
So a team can exploit Houston’s aggressiveness with an effective roll man and a big who can drive the basketball. Now check out 30 seconds in the following video:
Center Marek Dolezaj, for Syracuse, sets a screen for teammate Buddy Boeheim, an extremely dangerous shooter. Boeheim attracts a double team then passes the ball back to Dolezaj who has popped behind the arc.
Dolezaj then drives inside for an and-one. Dolezaj is a screen-setter who is also a strong driver with the basketball even from behind the arc. He and power forward Quincy Guerrier, who is even more efficient inside the arc, can ably execute the short roll and fake dribble hand-off like Memphis did
While Houston’s perimeter defense has attractive-looking stats, it’s only relevant for your best bets to know how Houston has defended behind the arc against higher-quality offenses. Lately, the better AAC three-point shooting squads have given Houston trouble behind the arc.
Memphis, for example, went 8-for-21 and 7-for-18 — so over 38 percent — from three in its last two games against the Cougars. Rutgers, in its near upset win over Houston, converted seven of 16 three-point opportunities — so 43.8 percent. For the Orange, Buddy Boeheim is converting 39.6 percent of his three-point opportunities this season. In his last four games, Boeheim is a combined 18-of-43 (41.9) percent from behind the arc.
He’ll get open in a variety of ways: a screen will be set for him as he moves without the ball, then catches the ball, and flexes his lightning-quick release. With the ball, a teammate will set a screen for him. He’ll also position himself in a corner by himself and wait for the pass. Guerrier, Dolezaj, or another teammate will drive and kick it.
Quentin Grimes vs. Syracuse Defense
I suspect that the Orange defense will want to focus on Quentin Grimes, Houston’s highest-usage player and its top shot-taker. Grimes is especially dangerous from behind the arc, so remember that when heading to betting sites. On the season, Grimes is a more efficient three-point shooter than West Virginia’s Sean McNeil, who drained seven threes in West Virginia’s near-win over Syracuse.
But the main difference between Grimes and McNeil is that Grimes can create his own shot. Look at 16 seconds in the following video:
Grimes uses a ball fake to act like he’s going to drive inside. He performs this move so forcefully and quickly that he shakes his defender off his feet.
Now he doesn’t even have to execute a step-back. He can just walk behind the arc and attempt an uncontested three-pointer. This season, he’s converting 41.7 percent of his three-point attempts.
Rest of Houston Offense vs. Syracuse Defense
Let’s say that Syracuse tries to limit Grimes, if that’s possible. I like Houston’s offense because of its versatility. 'Cuse's intent to contain Houston’s perimeter attack will more easily open up the high post, a characteristic area of vulnerability for the Orange defense. Houston enjoys plenty of players who can hit mid-range jumpers from the high post.
Fabian White, for example, converts 54.2 percent of his two-point jumpers. Brison Gresham converts 57.4 percent of them. These are higher-volume shooters, too. The list also goes on.
DeJon Jarreau is another impactful weapon. His first step is lethally quick. He ranks 95th in the nation in assist rate largely because he easily penetrates inside. It’s hard to stay in front of him. So defenses offer little resistance as he is isolated against a defender and then attacks the basket or kicks the ball outside. His slashing will create an inside-out play that will hurt the Orange zone.
Houston has a lot of prep time for Coach Boeheim’s zone and a lot of weapons with which to attack it — Grimes, especially, from behind the arc, White and Gresham above all from the high post, Jarreau driving and facilitating.
Syracuse will score, too, with its Boeheim-led perimeter attack and its driving bigs off of misdirection actions and short rolls.
Houston’s top scorer (Grimes) has an important advantage over Syracuse’s: Grimes doesn’t have to contend with the AAC Defensive Player of the Year. Not only is Jarreau a higher-quality defender than anything the Orange has to offer, but he’s also taller. Boeheim has succeeded in this tournament partly because he can shoot over opposing defenders. But Jarreau is right there with Boeheim height-wise.
Moreover, Houston is the nation’s second-best offensive rebounding team by percentage. Syracuse is notorious for struggling with teams who more easily accrue second-chance points off of missed shot attempts because it is difficult to rebound out of the zone.
North Carolina, for example, went 2-0 ATS and nearly 2-0 SU against the Orange despite converting just 9 of 44 three-point attempts against the Orange because the Tar Heels were so dominant on the offensive glass. If the Orange try to devote more players to the defensive glass, they expose themselves further to a Cougar transition attack that ranks fifth-best nationally in efficiency. Keep that in mind when looking at the college basketball spreads.
One thing to note is that Jarreau has suffered a hip pointer. But don’t let this detail scare you: he still played 32 minutes and scored 17 points in Houston’s win over Rutgers. Plus he’s had six whole days to rest.
This is a Syracuse team that — especially because of its inferiority in defensive rebounding — the Cougars already match up better with than with Rutgers. So having Jarreau is huge for ensuring a Cougar victory, even if he isn’t 100%.
But I do worry that the Cougars may try to limit his minutes a tad with an Elite Eight matchup on the horizon. They would gladly exchange a victory by only five or six points for an even slightly more rested Jarreau.
Since I can parlay it with the total, I will confidently settle for the Cougars ML instead of Cougars ATS. For the above reasons, parlay the Cougars Moneyline with the “over”. Be sure to use our trusty parlay calculator for your parlay betting needs.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.