College Basketball Betting: Syracuse at Connecticut Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 02/11/2009
Have you ever wondered what would happen if a Top 25 team didn't play defense, didn't make free throws, didn't take care of the ball, didn't rebound and didn't bring any intensity to the court on the road? Did you ever wonder how long that team would stay in the Top 25?
Well, I'm halfway to getting some answers for you in the form of the Syracuse Orange.
The No. 22 Orange head to Storrs tonight to take on the No. 1 team in the country, the Connecticut Huskies. Syracuse is a hefty 12-point underdog and if they manage to rattle off the checklist that I suggested - just as they have done in their past four road games - then you can expect to start seeing the Duke-North Carolina highlights running before halftime.
Syracuse has lost five of seven games since their cup of coffee in the Top 10. And those losses, particularly those on the road, have been disgusting. They lost by 14 at Georgetown. They lost by 18 at Pittsburgh. They only lost by six at Providence, but they surrendered 100 points to an unranked team. And on Sunday Villanova squeezed the Orange by 17 points. In all of those games the Orange were outrebounded, had more turnovers, trailed by double-digits in the first half (except at PU), and allowed their opponent to shot over 50 percent.
So is there any reason to think that Syracuse can give the Huskies a game at 7 p.m. tonight in Connecticut?
Granted, the Orange have been a bit banged up over their recent slide. First, starting guard Andy Rautins went down with a combo ankle-knee injury. He has yet to regain his form. Next, starting center Arinze Onuaku has lingering knee issues that has resulted in his minutes getting cut in half over the last three games and his scoring drop by about 75 percent.
But the biggest problems from the Orange are coming from the fact that they just are not a disciplined, focused team. They are not doing any of the little things that it takes to win games and they have really been a disaster for nearly a month after a very promising start. I have been saying for two weeks that they don't deserve to be in the Top 25, but I get the sense that ESPN managed to keep them in the poll this week simply to gin up this game.
Connecticut, on the other hand, has been dominating and doesn't need an faux respect. And in this game they will have no mercy.
The Huskies have won 11 straight games - and covered four of five - en route to the top spot in the country. They rocked Louisville, on the road, by 18 points and they handled Villanova by six points at home. They have one of the three best frontcourts in the country, led by All-Underrated forward Jeff Adrien and center Hasheem Thabeet, and their guards are starting to really pick their games up.
The Huskies are well coached. They are athletic. They have no weakness on the perimeter or on the interior. They are playing at home against a wounded rival. They are playing for a No. 1 seed and to defend their current spot as the Best Team In The Country. And they're doing so against a team that has rolled over on the road. This one should get real ugly, real quick.
If Onuaku is still not 100 percent - and I guarantee you that he is not - then UConn will overwhelm the Orange on the inside. Adrien will bang mid-range jumpers all night and Stan Robinson and Thabeet will get to the basket whenever they please. Rick Jackson will get in foul trouble, the Orange will be forced to go small, and it will be Pittsburgh all over again as Syracuse starts chucking from deep because they can't get to the basket. The crowd will smell blood. The Huskies will start turning defense to offense faster than you can say Sue Bird and it will become a bloodbath. I could see the Huskies winning by a million points.
But then again………(and this is the part of me that has been following Syracuse hoops since I was five years old talking).
That's the weird thing about Syracuse: they always come to play when I least expect it. Last year they lost a two-point heartbreaker in overtime at Georgetown as a 12-point underdog. In 2006 the Orange won outright as an 11-point underdog against a mighty Huskies squad. Syracuse is not physically unable to compete with the Huskies and both starting guards are capable of hitting the Huskies for 30. Further, the 2-3 zone could help the Orange compete on the boards with Adrien and Thabeet and the Huskies are definitely not a team of pure shooters. If UConn can get baited into shooting a lot of jumpers then the Orange might just be able to hang around.
Then again, in SU's last trip to Storrs as a double-digit underdog they lost by 23 points. Also, the favorite is 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings and 7-2 ATS in the last nine of this rivalry.
However, there is the word: "rivalry". Syracuse has nothing to lose in this affair. They can play reckless and loose. They have five double-digit scorers, four on the perimeter, and if a couple of them get hot they could tuck inside this number or make this a game. Granted, that mode of thinking would have gotten your clock cleaned at G-Town, Providence, Pitt or Villanova. But it's possible that the Orange can turn it around just as quickly as they lost it.
Or they can get their asses kicked. Again.