Here's our professional NCAA Basketball Pick for tonight's ACC battle between the Virginia Cavaliers & the Syracuse Orange. College Hoops odds favor the Cavs with the total set at 114.
Virginia (-5-) vs. Syracuse 7:00 ET ESPN
No. 2 ranked Virginia brings their 27-1 SU record and 15-1 SU ACC mark to the Carrier Dome tonight, riding an 8 game winning streak. The Cavs must win this game and their Saturday game at Louisville to remain the No. 2 team in the nation. Tonight, they will be facing a Syracuse team, who is having a subpar year with a record of 18-11 SU, 9 SU in ACC play. Before deciding on your NCAA basketball picks, keep in mind that the Orange must win their closing two games to assure legendary HC Boeheim of his 37th 20-win season. While Virginia has the motivation of remaining the No. 2 overall seed, Syracuse is playing out the string with a self-imposed post-season ban. Let’s take a look at the reasons behind what many will feel to be a contrary selection.
Under 6th year HC Bennett, Virginia has ascended on a straight line with seasons of 15, 16, 22, 20, and 30 wins. They made it to the Sweet 16 last year. Now, they look to exceed that lofty 30 victory season with the greatest season in UVA history. Bennett is best known for his pack-line defense. A concept he developed with his father in their days coaching together in Wisconsin. The simple explanation of the concept is that 5 defenders “pack” the lane. When the offense swings the ball to a potential 3 point shooter, the defender closest to him attacks him at the 3 point “line.” No one in the country runs this defense as successfully as Bennett. It is the reason behind his great success. This year, Virginia is allowing just 50 PPG and only 35% shooting. With positives in rebound margin, TO/assist margin and TO margin, they are the epitome of a Defensive Dandy. This year, Virginia is a perfect 10-0 SU, 8-2 ATS on the road in winning those games by an average of 14 PPG. That includes a perfect 4-0 ATS to 5-, making them one of our classic Roadrunner teams. Tonight, they enter with 8 consecutive victories and are favored by 5.5 points in NCAA Basketball odds. Yet, due to their early season success, and in combination with the loss of their top scorer, Anderson, to injury, Virginia is just 2-8 ATS of late. In short, they have become overpriced.
Syracuse has struggled since the outset of the year because last year’s lead guard, Tyler Ennis, chose to leave early. Without someone to run the show, the Syracuse offense has averaged just 69 PPG on 40% shooting. One of the constants, however, has been Boeheim’s trademark 2-3 zone defense. The Orange allows just 63 PPG, 40% from the field and 32% from the arc. They also have positives in rebound margin, assist/TO margin and TO margin, qualifying them as a Defensive Dandy. Syracuse will be very hungry after their subpar performance Saturday night, a 54-73 loss at Duke, in which they shot just 31% from the field and made just 3/20 triples. But, the Orange has used their self-imposed post-season ban as motivation. In the 6 games since its institution, Syracuse has defeated Louisville on this court and Notre Dame at South Bend.
In a battle of Defensive Dandies, I side with a Syracuse team who is 55-8 SU on this court for the last 4 seasons. With no promise of the post-season, look for the Orange to treat this like an NCAA Final Four game. Playing in their LHG of the season, behind a packed Carrier Dome crowd, it is enough to get Syracuse the pointspread victory if not the outright win.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Take Syracuse at BetOnline