NCAA Basketball Pick: UConn vs Syracuse
NCAA Basketball Spread: Off
This would normally be a matchup of the two of the best coaches in the country, but UConn’s Jim Calhoun will miss this game as he is on an indefinite medical leave. UConn is the defending National Champs, but they have been struggling mightily of late. Syracuse is ranked second in the nation, and the Orange are looking to make a deep run in March this year. Expect the Carrier Dome to be rocking on Saturday.
The news around UConn hasn’t been positive at all of late. The Huskies are in the news for all the wrong reasons. The program is trying to convince the NCAA to not keep the team out of the postseason for the 2013 NCAA Tournament. While this is going on off the floor, the Huskies have lost five of their last six games. They were thrashed 80-59 by Louisville on Monday night. Jeremy Lamb leads the team in scoring at 17.2 points per game. Lamb is definitely a great team leader, but he has had too much on his shoulders of late. Shabazz Napier is struggling in a big way. Napier is shooting 38.6% from the floor, and he hasn’t scored in double figures in any of the last four games.
The Huskies have been disappointed by Alex Oriakhi, who contributed nicely last year in his sophomore season. Oriakhi’s numbers are down a lot this year. Andre Drummond has been very good in his rookie season, but he still needs to polish up his inside post moves. Defensively, the Huskies allow opponents to shoot just 37.1% from the floor. It has been the inefficient offense that has slowed UConn this year.
Jim Boeheim picked up his 880th career victory Wednesday night when Syracuse edged Georgetown in overtime, but he wasn’t a bit happy with his team’s effort. Boeheim said “Right now I don’t think we’re a good basketball team because we can’t rebound.” He went on to say that the team’s terrible job against Georgetown’s zone was inexplicable given the fact that they practice against a zone every day. Clearly, Boeheim knows he has a very good team, but he is pushing them to be even better. He is a veteran coach who knows this team will trip up in March if they don’t correct these problems.
Kris Joseph is the team’s leading scorer, and he is the guy that this team relies heavily on in the half court offense. Joseph is a 6’7 forward who has an extremely versatile game. Dion Waiters, Brandon Triche, and Scoop Jardine form a nice backcourt. None of these guys are pure scorers, but all of them are great athletes and good ball-handlers. Fab Melo is back in the lineup, and that is key for the Orange. Melo is a great asset defensively in the middle of the Syracuse zone. Syracuse uses its athleticism to push the ball in transition. The team’s length and athleticism makes their zone defense tough to attack.
UConn will likely show up more prepared than they were against Louisville, but Syracuse is a tough team. The Orange will be focused after a near-miss against Georgetown.
Prediction: Syracuse 72 UConn 62