On tap for tonight are two major conference rivalry games that have all the makings for blowouts. ESPN thought they had a heck of a doubleheader but all of a sudden Connecticut cannot win on the road and North Carolina cannot win period. Still, you know what to do with the record books during rivalry week.
Connecticut (14-9) at No. 3 Syracuse (23-1), 7 p.m. ET ESPN
How They Enter
A major statement win by the Huskies against out-of-conference foe Texas did not turn the season around like many expected. Without coach Jim Calhoun on the bench the Huskies returned to Big East play and lost three straight and then finally picked up a win at home against lowly DePaul on Saturday. The Huskies are 1-3 SU and 0-4 ATS entering Wednesday’s rematch of the Big East Conference quarterfinal six-overtime thriller last season.
The Orange is starting to look more and more like the best team in the country. After a baffling home loss at Pitt to open the New Year, Syracuse has been on a mission, trouncing Big East competition and easily covering most games. They are 8-2 ATS during their 10-game winning streak. The upset loss to Pitt certainly looks like a positive now.
No team in college basketball shoots the ball better than Syracuse. They are a 53-percent shooting squad and scoring 82 points per game, seventh best in the country, even though they are playing in the defense-heavy Big East. Unlike Syracuse teams in the recent past, this group is all about the inside game led by Wesley Johnson (16.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg) and Kris Joseph and Arinze Onuaku, who also average double digit points per game.
As hot of a shooting team Syracuse is, Connecticut has been equally as strong defending. Teams are shooting 38.3 percent against them, that is the 12th best shooting defense in college basketball. And the Huskies have as many offensive weapons as Syracuse with Jerome Dyson near the top of the Big East leader board averaging 19 points per game. Stanley Robinson, Kemba Walker and Gavin Edwards also average double figures.
Trends That Matter
UConn is 0-4 ATS in their last four games in the Big East
UConn is 5-1 ATS in their last six games after a SU win
Under is 11-5 in the 16 meetings between these two teams and 5-2 in the last seven games in the Carrier Dome
Syracuse is 16-5 ATS in their last 21 games in the Big East
Syracuse is 15-5 ATS this season (7-4 ATS at home)
Connecticut has the talent to hang with most teams in the Big East but Syracuse has been dominant and their games at home have rarely been close. This has more to do with Syracuse’s strengths than UConn’s weaknesses, the pick is Syracuse giving the points.
No. 7 Duke (19-4) at North Carolina (13-10), 9 p.m. ET ESPN
How They Enter
A stretch like no other in North Carolina’s recent history has the unthinkable looking more and more likely. North Carolina is 1-6 SU in its last seven games. This horrid stretch of basketball has left UNC on the outside looking in at the NCAA Tournament picture. A 92-71 road loss at Maryland on Sunday was definitely the low point of the season; it was the worst loss since Roy Williams came to town.
Duke has been a different team on the road than they are at home. They struggled in losses at Georgia Tech, N.C. State and Georgetown but managed to get by Boston College, 66-63, on Saturday before heading to face their rivals in Chapel Hill.
This could end up hurting Duke in the NCAA Tournament but right now their offense is centered on three players, guards Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and forward Kyle Singler. Combined the three account for 57 percent of the Duke offense. Even with a guard-dominated lineup Duke has still out rebounded its opponents 36-29 per game.
The recent struggles may have people forgetting that these Tar Heels are the defending national champions and this season they defeated Ohio State on a neutral court and Michigan State and only lost by two points at Kentucky. The struggles have many people trying to figure out exactly what is going wrong. Some site a lack of confidence or team chemistry issues, whatever it is, it is quickly snowballing.
Trends That Matter
Duke is 5-0 ATS in their last five games following an ATS loss
Duke is 5-2 ATS in their last seven ACC games
Duke is 1-4 ATS in their last five road games
North Carolina is 1-6 ATS in its last seven games (1-5 ATS at home)
Road team is 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings in this rivalry
Underdog is 13-4 ATS in the last 17 meetings in this rivalry
The road team has had recent success in this series but that is usually because they come in as an underdog. The Tar Heels are the underdog here and with their season on the line Duke, a notoriously weak road team, comes to town just at the right time. The pick is North Carolina and the points.