Syracuse will miss March Madness and the ACC Tournament this season, but that isn't taking any shine off the Orange's college basketball odds matchup at Duke on Saturday.
Mike Krzyzewski vs. Jim Boeheim. Any questions?
On a college basketball betting slate that is chockfull of big games, including three matchups between ranked teams, Saturday's prime-time tilt between the Syracuse Orange and Duke Blue Devils stands out as the one most likely to match the tone and intensity of an NCAA Tournament clash. ESPN will deliver the broadcast to your living room or favorite bar starting at 7 PM (ET).
The Blue Devils opened as 12½ point favorites, and that spread stuck overnight on the NCAA basketball odds board.
'Cuse Needs Upset To Even All-Time Series Vs. Duke
Saturday's encounter is a rematch from two weeks ago at the Carrier Dome where more than 34,000 witnessed Duke's 80-72 victory. The Blue Devils were a perfect 12-for-12 from the free throw line during the final 2½ minutes of that meeting to just cover the closing 7½ point spread.
Quinn Cook made the last six of those charity tosses as part of a 17 point effort. Jahlil Okafor led Duke with 23 points to go with 13 rebounds, one of 10 double-doubles for the freshman this season, while Michael Gbinije pumped in a game-high 27 in a losing cause for the Orange.
The Valentine's matchup was the third between the schools as ACC rivals after the schools split home wins and covers a year ago. The triumph gave the Blue Devils a slight 4-3 edge in the series.
Dookies In Middle Of Tough 3-Game Stretch for Orange
Syracuse (18-10 straight up, 9-14-2 against the spread) opened February with a great comeback to avoid being upset by Virginia Tech at home, and the Orange have been alternating losses and wins ever since. Should that trend continue, they're due a setback in Durham tonight.
One reason for the up-&-down play is no doubt Syracuse's announcement earlier this month that it would sit the postseason out this year due to violations in the football and basketball programs several years ago. It would certainly explain why the Orange have been able to get up when facing the likes of Louisville and Notre Dame lately, even hanging with Duke until the end two weeks ago, but struggled against Virginia Tech and dropped both battles with Pitt this month.
Another factor behind the inconsistency might also go back to mid-January when Syracuse lost Chris McCullough for the season with a torn ACL. The Orange were 12-4 when the freshman forward went down, 6-6 after that, and even worse against the NCAA odds at 3-8-1 ATS.
Consistent Offense Helping Duke 'Over' Bettors
Duke (25-3 SU, 15-13 ATS) has been alternating wins and losses on the NCAA odds for more than a month now, but has emerged as a solid 'over' bet thanks to a steady and potent offense. The last four Blue Devils games have gone past the mark, leaving them 10-5 O/U in conference play, and Coach K's kids have strung together three consecutive games above 50% in the field goal column.
Krzyzewski was forced to sit Okafor against Clemson last weekend after the frosh phenom sprained his left ankle, but the kid roared back earlier this week with a career-best 30 in Duke's 91-86 overtime victory at Virginia Tech. He has reached double figures in all 27 of his games this year.
The total is likely to be a little higher than the 148 set in the last matchup, the 'over' a very tempting wager for yours truly. Instead, I'll run with the Orange plus the points for my free college basketball pick.
My NCAA Basketball Pick: Syracuse +12.5 at 5Dimes
Season: 57-50-2 (+2.0)