Saturday NCAA Game of the Day: Syracuse at West Virginia
by Matt Severance - 1/15/2010
Well, hopefully we’ve found something here with the Saturday NCAA Game of the Day feature, as I recommended taking Wisconsin last week against Purdue – and of course the Badgers knocked the Boilermakers from the ranks of the unbeaten. Honestly, I rarely will recommend a total because I think those are too unpredictable (and those bets account for maybe 10 percent of a book’s action), but let’s make it 2-0 this week on the side.
Certainly, choosing the game of the day this time around was much easier than last week as there is only one matchup featuring Top 10 teams Saturday: No. 5 Syracuse at No. 9 West Virginia in a Big East showdown at noon on ESPN, with WVU opening as a three-point betting favorite. Believe it or not, it’s the first matchup between Top 10 teams in the 40-year history of the WVU Coliseum. And, crazily enough, there has been only one game between Top 10 teams ever in Morgantown and that came exactly 50 years ago – Jan. 16, 1960, when the Mountaineers were led by a guy named Jerry West.
The Orange (16-1, and a tremendous 10-3 ATS overall) have only lost to Pitt, and that loss is looking better by the day with the way Pittsburgh is playing – plus the Panthers own Syracuse anyways. Since that loss on Jan. 2, the Orange have steamrolled Memphis, South Florida and Rutgers by at least 16 points each. They have beaten three ranked teams this season, all away from the Carrier Dome (neutral-site games).
West Virginia (13-2) started the season 11-0 and has been tremendous at home but has looked rather shaky on the road in the New Year. The Mountaineers were thumped at Purdue on New Year’s Day and also lost at Notre Dame. On Wednesday at South Florida, they were down 11 points to a bad Bulls team but ended up winning by 19. Leading scorer Da’Sean Butler has made just 10 of 33 shots in the past two games. Unheralded forward Kevin Jones suddenly has become WVU’s best all-around player, as he is averaging 15.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and shooting 62 percent from the floor and 45 percent from three-point range. He was held to single-digit points for the first time this year at USF. Starting slowly has been a problem of late for this team, but returning home should help.
With Wesley Johnson (17.3 points, 12.3 rebounds), Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson, the Orange should dominate the paint. The Mountaineers love to shoot the three-pointer, and they will have to against that SU zone. The magic number for WVU is 70 points, as it has won 27 games in a row under Bob Huggins when it scores at least that many. SU, meanwhile, shoots better than 53 percent from the field, while WVU is 11-0 this year when the opponent doesn’t make half its shots.
The Orange have owned this series, winning 10 of the last 11 games against West Virginia, including last year’s 74-69 OT victory in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament. WVU’s lone win since 2001 did come in Morgantown in 2008 in the teams’ last meeting there. That was WVU’s only cover in the past five meetings. But the Mountaineers are a very different team at home this year – give the points.
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