Thursday March 22 7:15 p.m. EST on CBS
NCAA Basketball Spread: Syracuse -4
Wisconsin is one of four Big Ten teams to make it to the Sweet Sixteen. Syracuse is one of four Big East teams to make it to the Sweet Sixteen. These two conferences will be squaring off against each other a lot through the rest of the tournament. Wisconsin will take on the top-seeded Syracuse Orange in the first matchup between these two power conferences Thursday night in Boston.
Bo Ryan’s Wisconsin Badgers don’t play pretty basketball, but they get the job done. A lot of people thought they would struggle with Montana, but they knocked them out 73-49. After that win, many figured they would lose to a very talented Vanderbilt team. Vanderbilt gave Wisconsin a great game, but it was the Badgers who got through to the Sweet Sixteen. This team takes care of the basketball and plays terrific defense, and that is a formula for success in the NCAA Tournament.
Jordan Taylor is the team’s veteran leader at the point guard position. Taylor will likely leave school with the NCAA record for best assist/turnover ratio in a career. He leads the team in scoring at 14.7 points per game, and his shot seems to be coming back to him some of late. Ryan Evans is the team’s second leading scorer, and he has been huge in this tournament so far. Jared Berggren is a big man who can step out and knock down the outside jumper. Josh Gasser and Ben Brust are both sharp shooters on the outside. The Badgers allow only 52.9 points per game, which is the best mark in the country.
Syracuse got a major scare from 16th seeded UNC-Asheville last week, but they bounced back to knock out Kansas State comfortably Saturday afternoon. Scoop Jardine got hot in the second half as the Orange pulled away for a big 75-59 win over the Wildcats. Jardine went 3 for 3 from beyond the arc, and the team finished 6 for 9 from three-point range. When Syracuse is hitting the outside shot, they are almost impossible to stop. Kris Joseph is the team’s leading scorer at 12.7 points per game. Joseph is a 6’7 forward who can score in a variety of ways. Dion Waiters is one of the most improved players in the country. He averages 12.7 points per game, and he leads the team with 65 steals.
The loss of Fab Melo makes the Syracuse zone a little less effective, but this is still a terrific defensive team. Opponents are shooting just 38.3% from the field overall, and only 30.3% from three-point range. Wisconsin will likely try quite a few three-point shots in this one, and I expect Syracuse to extend the zone a little bit.
Wisconsin is a gritty tough team, but I don’t think they matchup very well with Syracuse. The length of Syracuse should both Wisconsin’s shooters. I think the Orange win this one by several points.
Free College Basketball Pick: Syracuse -4
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