California vs. Syracuse Picks and NCAA Tournament Betting Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 3/23/2013
East meets west on Saturday when Syracuse and California meet up in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. These two potential sleepers face off at 9:30 p.m. EST on Saturday for the right to advance to the Sweet 16. The game will be played in San Jose, although it is part of the East Region on the bracket.
Here is a breakdown of this weekend’s top matchup:
California vs. Syracuse Betting Story Lines
Syracuse was one of the most impressive teams in the tournament in its 47-point demolition of Montana on Thursday night. The Orange, the No. 4 seed, entered The Big Dance with as many questions and as much uncertainty as any squad in the country after a collapse in the Big East title game and subsequent announcement of a pending NCAA investigation. But they answered the bell and delivered a stunning 81-34 knockout of the Grizzlies.
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No. 12 California sprung an upset on UNLV Thursday evening, winning 64-61 in a tight, hard-fought contest. The Golden Bears were a dangerous team in the extraordinarily underrated Pac-12 this year, and they are hoping to ride somewhat of a home court advantage into the next round.
Cal boasts one of the best backcourts in the country. Allen Crabbe is an all-American and sets the pace with 18.7 points per game. Extremely underrated point guard Justin Cobbs is not far off, generating 15.4 points and 4.8 assists per outing.
However, the Golden Bears are weak on the interior. No. 3 scorer Richard Solomon is capable at the power spot. But Cal only plays three guys taller than 6-6 and none, beyond Solomon, are all that capable.
Syracuse is one of the largest, most athletic teams in the country. A crop of rangy, explosive players bolsters their vaunted 2-3 zone. They all range between 6-4 and 6-10. SU is No. 2 in the nation in average height and No. 31 in effective height.
The Orange aren’t just big, they are also skilled. Senior Brandon Triche and sophomore Michael Carter-Williams set the pace in the backcourt. They average 13.9 and 11.8 points per game, respectively, to go along with 11.2 combined assists.
This is a duo with enormous potential. But they are streaky, and turnover prone, and as they go so go the Orange. Triche has been known to disappear in big moments in this career. And while Carter-Williams is a future pro, he is still pretty raw and has no idea how to control or finish out a game of this magnitude.
C.J. Fair (14.4) and James Southerland (13.7) give the Orange two other double-digit scorers.
This game will be determined by Cal’s ability (or inability) to solve the Syracuse zone. There are a lot of teams in the nation that play the 2-3 zone, but no one plays it quite like the Orange. Cal is just No. 299 in the nation in three-point shooting, and they need force Syracuse turnovers in order to score easy baskets.
The problem for Cal is that the Orange would love to play a fast-paced game. They want to get out and run and let their athletes loose. Syracuse doesn’t perform well in structured half-court offense – which is a weakness – and would rather try to strong arm opponents by winning one-on-one battles.
California also has somewhat of a home-court advantage. San Jose is just 45 miles down the road for Berkley, and there should be a strong pro-Cal contingent in the crowd on Saturday.
California vs. Syracuse NCAA Tournament Betting Odds and Key Trends
Syracuse opened as an eight-point favorite. The line has moved to 7.5 at some books despite the majority of the overall bets coming in on the Orange. The total is set at 124.5.
California is 5-0 ATS in their last five games against a team with a winning record and they are 22-8-1 ATS in their last 31 Saturday games. However, they are just 2-5 ATS in their last seven NCAA Tournament games and just 2-6 ATS in their last eight against the Big East. The Golden Bears are also just 1-5 ATS in their last five nonconference games.
Syracuse is 8-2 ATS in its last 10 nonconference games. They have also been solid after a blowout, going 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games following a win of 20 or more points. The Orange have also been exceptional in the Round of 32, going 5-1 ATS in their last six “second round” games.
California vs. Syracuse Picks and NCAA Tournament Betting Predictions
This game could be much closer than the spread suggests. March is all about guard play, and Cal has one of the three or four best backcourts in the country. Cobbs and Crabbe are going to get their shots, and they are going to find their points. I expect them to outplay Triche and Carter-Williams, and that should keep the Bears competitive.
Syracuse doesn’t generate much offense in the paint, so they aren’t well equipped to take advantage of the Golden Bears’ weakness of post defense. I do think that Syracuse will dominate the glass. And, although teams always think they are just facing another 2-3 zone, it always takes unfamiliar opponents awhile to get used to the Orange defense. Syracuse has too much size and experience.
The value seems to lie with the points, the best player on the floor, and the team playing closer to home. But I also don’t see Syracuse losing this game, and as a general rule you usually don’t want to bet on an underdog in an NCAA Tournament game unless you think they can advance. The Orange have dominated second round opponents over the past decade, including a James Harden-led Arizona State team out of the Pac-12 back in 2009, and they have the talent of a Final Four team.
The Syracuse offense has been hot. And I think Cal’s guards are going to combine for 40 or more points by themselves. I can see this game sneaking “over” the posted total, and that may be the play here.
Robert Ferringo keeps proving himself to be one of the best college basketball handicappers in the nation. His college basketball picks have earned $100 bettors over $16,000 in the last two seasons. Another strong card is coming today and you can get his pick HERE for only $30.
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