Syracuse is sliding down while North Carolina is on the rise. That's the backdrop for Monday's college basketball betting matchup in Chapel Hill between the Orange and Tar Heels.
This is generally about the time of season you expect Jim Boeheim and Syracuse to be cooking along in full control of their destiny. But then, there hasn't really been a sense of normalcy all season for the Orange.
Syracuse has a chance to change a bit of a downward swing Monday night in a matchup of two perennial powerhouses as the Orange visit the North Carolina Tar Heels. ESPN cranks this one up at 7 PM (ET) from Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill.
SBR's live college basketball odds picked this game up initially with North Carolina lined as 11 point chalk, that spread dropping a half-point at several sports books overnight.
It's still a developing rivalry between the Tar Heels and Orange, this only the ninth meeting overall and just the second as conference foes. Syracuse won the inaugural ACC battle a year ago in the Carrier Dome, 57-45, in a true Orange classic of physical, defensive-minded basketball.
The victory gave the Orange a 4-4 split in the previous eight meetings overall, and obviously stayed 'under' a closing 136 point total. Both teams are sporting 'over' tendencies this season, however, Syracuse sitting 8-6 O/U while UNC is 10-7-1.
'Cuse A Bad Bet On Conference Schedule
Syracuse (14-6 straight up, 6-10-1 against the spread) spent last week at home, splitting its two games with a 69-61 victory vs. Boston College and a 66-62 setback against Miami. The loss to the Hurricanes was accented by a season-worst performance at the free-throw line where the Orange left 11 points on 8-of-19 shooting.
Another stat sticking out from the Miami game was four starters playing the entire 40 minutes. Boeheim's team is still adjusting to a season-ending knee injury that Chris McCullough suffered in a victory over Florida State a couple of weeks ago, and Syracuse is so far finding it difficult to replace the freshman forward who was averaging 9.3 points per game (4th on team) and nearly seven rebounds a contest.
The Orange are still hanging around in the conference race at 5-2, that record putting them just two games behind Virginia. Syracuse backers, however, are seeing their bankrolls draining with just one spread-beater among the first seven ACC games. A big reason behind that is the Orange haven't had a real clamp-down defensive showing since the ACC opener against Georgia Tech.
Heels On 5-Game Run Entering Tough Stretch On ACC Slate
North Carolina (16-4 SU, 11-9 ATS) has been dealing with injuries the entire season, and the Tar Heels are especially thin off the bench in the backcourt. Reserve guards Theo Pinson (foot) and Joel Berry II (groin) are both out of action indefinitely, with reserve forward Joel James questionable for Monday's matchup. Brice Johnson, third on the team in scoring and second in rebounding, is also working through some back issues that flared up again in Saturday's squeaker vs. Florida State, but the junior forward is listed as probable for tonight's tilt.
Johnson came up big in the 78-74 victory over the Seminoles, recording his fourth double-double (18 points, 14 rebounds) of the season despite logging just 23 minutes of floor time. The Tar Heels closed as 14½ point favorites against FSU, and like Syracuse are having trouble covering the NCAA odds in ACC games with a 2-5 ATS record.
I suspect we'll eventually see a total around last year's mark of 137, and am inclined initially to favor the low side of that figure. North Carolina should have enough depth to wear down the Orange for the straight-up win, but I'm taking the points and the visitors for my free college basketball pick.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Syracuse +10.5 at 5Dimes Sportsbook
Season: 28-31 (-6.1)