Seton Hall Pirates (17-14) 17-8 ATS, 11-13 O/U vs. No. 18 Syracuse Orange (23-8) 13-14 ATS, 16-11 O/U Wednesday, March 11, 2009 Madison Square Garden, New York City 9:00 p.m. EST
By Wilson of Predictem.com
The Big East Tournament is up and running at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Syracuse and Seton Hall will go head to head tonight for the first time since December 30 when the Orange beat the Pirates 100-76. The Big East is arguably the toughest conference in the country as they boast five teams that are ranked in the AP top 25 and the ESPN/USA Today polls. Seton Hall is likely to be the underdog as soon as the point spread comes out later today. But we all know that during tournament time anything is possible especially in college basketball. The Pirates definitely have their backs against the wall and will need to play flawless hoops to keep their big dance chances alive.
The Orange come into tonights matchup averaging 80.1 points per game while allowing 70 to their opponents. Syracuse is 7-2 ATS in their last nine games versus Seton Hall. The Orange are led by guard Jonny Flynn who pours in 17.3 points per game while dishing out 6.4 assists. Paul Harris and Arinze Onuaku get done on the boards as each pulls down 7 to 8 boards per outing.
Looking ahead, Syracuse has 31 appearances in the NCAA Tournament. They have been to four Final Fours, and they won the National Championship in 2003 when they beat Kansas 81-78. The Orange NCAA Tournament record 48-32. Their last NCAA Tournament game was in 2006 as they lost to Texas A&M 66-58. Should the Orange make it to the Tournament they would surely be a dark horse to win it all.
Seton Hall enters tonights game scoring 74 points per contest while giving up 72 to the opposition. The Pirates beat South Florida last night 68-54 to advance to day two of the Big East Tournament. In a conference where the top five teams are certainly a lock to be in the big dance the Pirates know they control their own destiny. Seton Hall was just 8-11 in conference play but considering the competition they may have finished in the top three of any other conference outside of maybe the ACC. But tonight you can throw all the regular season records to the side as tournament play recognizes no previous marks; its a different atmosphere in March.
The Pirates are paced on offense by Jeremy Hazell who is averaging 22.8 ppg and Robert Mitchells 14 ppg. Guard Eugene Harvey keeps the Pirates options open as he hands out nearly five assists per game. Mitchell and John Garcia pull down a combined 14 boards each game to help out underneath.
Seton Hall has made just nine appearances in the NCAA Tournament where they have 1 Final Four showing and zero championships. The Pirates overall NCAA Tournament record is 15-9. Their last NCAA Tourney game was a loss to Wichita State 86-66 in 2006. Their only appearance in a championship game was in 1989 as they lost to Michigan 80-79.
Both of these teams will show up tonight ready to ply but there is a reason why Syracuse is ranked No. 18 in the country- theyre tough! The Big East is a tough conference and its obvious by the number of teams ranked in both polls. The Orange has won four in a row while Seton Hall has won two straight heading into this post season showdown. I like Syracuse to control the pace and play their game. If Seton Hall wants to pull off the upset they will need to clamp it down defensively, if they keep the Orange at less than 70 points they might have a shot at a win.
Wilsons Pick: Syracuse rolls in the Garden; Orange 77, Pirates 67! Luck to ya.