NCAA Basketball Syracuse Orange (28-2, 19-7 ATS) vs. Louisville Cardinals (19-11, 9-16 ATS), Freedom Hall, Louisville, Saturday, March 6th, 2 PM Eastern, ESPN
By Z-Man of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Syracuse +1/Louisville -1
A possible No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament hits the road to take on one of the two teams that have beaten them this season when the Syracuse Orange visit the Louisville Cardinals in the Big East regular-season finale for both teams, in what could be the final game played at Freedom Hall.
Syracuse has won the Big East regular-season title, going 15-2 in conference play, and will be the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Big East Conference tournament. If the Orange can avoid a big stumble over this next week or so, they’ll be a No. 1 in the NCAA tournament.
Syracuse returned just two starters this season from last year’s 28-10 squad, and was expected to finish somewhere in the middle of the Big East. They even started the season unranked. But thanks in large part to the best transfer of this season, getting F Wesley Johnson from Iowa State, the Orange have risen to the top of the rankings, losing just twice so far this season. They started 13-0 before losing at home to Pittsburgh, then won 11 more in a row before falling at home to Louisville three weeks ago.
In fact, the ‘Ville has won the last five meetings in the series between these two teams.
Syracuse has now won four more games in a row, after beating Villanova last Saturday and St. John’s Tuesday night.
The Cardinals also returned only two starters this season from an outfit that won 31 games and the Big East regular-season crown last year. But they were thought to have enough to compete for that title again this season. However, they’ve had some ups and downs, notably back-to-back non-conference home losses to Charlotte and Western Carolina, and Big East road wins over the ‘Cuse and UConn.
Louisville also lost three straight games early in the Big East season, but recently won four of five to solidify their NCAA tournament credentials. But the Cardinals looked downright lethargic Tuesday night in losing at Marquette 69-48, shooting just 37% from the field.
At 10-7 in conference play the ‘Ville sits in sixth place in the Big East, and they need a win Saturday to guarantee they won’t have to play a first-round game in next week’s conference tournament.
On the season Syracuse is shooting a D1-best 52% from the field, 38% from 3-point range but only 67% from the free-throw line. At the other end of the court the Orange are holding opponents to just 39% FG shooting.
Louisville is shooting 45% from the floor this season, 34% from beyond the arc and 71% from the line. On the other end they’re allowing opponents to shoot 43% from the field.
Also, while Syracuse ranks 51st in D-1 in rebounding at +4.1 per game, Louisville ranks 104th at +2.4.
In his most recent NCAA tournament bracket Joe Lunardi at ESPN.com is projecting Syracuse as the top seed in the South Regional, with Louisville the nine seed in the Midwest.
The Orange are 8-0 straight up and 71 against the pointspreads in Big East road games this season.
The Cardinals are 6-2 SU but only 2-6 ATS in their Big East home games this season.
Syracuse has played the totals 10-12 this season, even though their games have averaged 147 points, which is about 9-10 points above average. The Orange have played four overs in a row, as they’ve averaged 88.5 PPG over that stretch.
Louisville is 14-10 on the totals this season, as their games have averaged 146 points. But six of the Cardinals’ last eight games have stayed under the totals, as the Cards have had some problems putting the ball in the hole.
Sagarin’s PREDICTOR ratings give the Orange a +7.2 advantage over the Cardinals. Taking off Sagarin’s CBB home-court advantage figure of 3.8, and Syracuse is still a 3 1/2-point road favorite for Saturday’s game over Louisville on the Sagarin line.
Z-Man’s Pick: The Orange are peaking bigtime right now. Bad news for Louisville. Wrong team favored, Syracuse wins and covers the spread by 5 or more.