Not to toot my own horn here, but if I don’t who will? I improved to 5-1 on the sides in my weekly college basketball picks last week and predicted Indiana’s home upset (well, maybe “predicted” is strong as I said IU definitely could win and would cover) of Ohio State last Saturday. Which, of course, means I probably just jinxed myself for this week’s game between No. 20 Marquette and top-ranked Syracuse on Saturday in Big East action. Tip is at 4 p.m. EST on ESPN3 and ESPN Full Court.
Ironically, my one loss this season was picking against the Orange when they visited N.C. State last month. The Orange are No. 1 in the polls for the fourth week in a row and enter the weekend as one of four unbeatens left, joining Missouri, Baylor and Murray State. And SU might be the only left standing on Saturday night as those other three all play potentially challenging road games (especially Missouri).
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Marquette at Syracuse Betting Storylines
For a while there, Marquette looked like it might be a threat this season in the Big East as the Golden Eagles started 10-0 and reached a high of No. 10 in the polls. Since then, however, MU has lost three of five, alternating losses and wins.
Marquette had a big win Wednesday at No. 7 Georgetown, it seemed, leading 56-39 with 13:10 left in the game before the Hoyas stormed back for a 73-70 victory. MU went more than 7.5 minutes between field goals for a stretch after taking that big lead.
Syracuse, meanwhile, has pummeled its three Big East foes so far. Although Wednesday’s 87-73 win at Providence was close for a half, with SU only leading by two at intermission. The Orange blew it open by shooting 73 percent from the field in the second half. No team is as deep as Syracuse, which runs 10 players out there and leads the nation in bench scoring. Six players scored in double figures against the Friars and two were off the bench.
This is the second consecutive season the Orange have opened with 16 straight wins. Last season's team went 18-0 before its first loss. This will be only SU’s second game so far against a ranked team: The Orange beat then-No. 9 Florida 72-68 at the Carrier Dome back on Dec. 2.
SU might have a little payback on its mind in this one. Entering last season, Syracuse was the only Big East team that Marquette hadn’t beaten since joining the conference. So much for that. The then-unranked Golden Eagles beat the No. 10 Orange, 76-70, in Milwaukee in late January and then proved that was no fluke in the NCAA Tournament, knocking off Syracuse, 66-62, to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in eight years.
The last time Marquette had gone that far was also the last time it beat a No. 1 team. In the 2003 NCAA Tournament MU upset top-ranked Kentucky to earn a trip to the Final Four. Overall, the Golden Eagles are 1-7 all-time vs. a No. 1 team and haven’t faced one since losing to Duke in November 2010.
These are the top two scoring teams in the Big East. The Orange lead the league in scoring, averaging 81.1 points per game, with Marquette No. 2 at 78.1 ppg. SU also leads the conference in scoring margin (+21.3). The Orange are a better defensive team, allowing 59.8 ppg and leading the nation in steals. Marquette allows 64.1 ppg.
Marquette at Syracuse Betting Odds and Trends
Syracuse opened as an 11.5-point favorite with the total at 148 on college basketball odds. Marquette is 4-7-1 ATS this season and 2-1 ATS on road. SU is 11-4 ATS overall and 7-3 at home. ‘Over/under’ records: MU 7-5, SU 8-6-1.
Marquette has covered just once in its past eight games. The Orange are 5-0 ATS in past five Saturday games. The ‘under’ is 7-1 in Marquette’s past eight road games. The ‘over’ is 6-1 in SU’s past seven.
College Basketball Picks: Marquette at Syracuse Betting Predictions
This is essentially going to come down to whether SU’s two stars, Darius Johnson-Odom (17.9 ppg) and Jae Crowder (16.6 ppg, 7.3 rebounds per game) can outplay the 10-strong SU group.
The Golden Eagles’ bench is pretty much freshman Todd Mayo (10.2 ppg) and sophomore Davante Gardner (he has started some) and not much else. Starting center Chris Otule has been out with a knee injury since early December, and the Golden Eagles’ next tallest player is the 6-foot-8 Gardner.
MU might catch a break in that Baye Moussa Keita, who averages about 12 minutes a game as seven-footer Fab Melo’s backup at center, may have to sit out a second straight game due to a hip injury. So if he is out and Marquette can get Melo in foul trouble, that could be significant. Otherwise, Melo should dominate the small Golden Eagles inside.
I think that’s what happens. Take Syracuse and the ‘under’ despite the fact these schools are Nos. 1-2 in scoring in the Big East.
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