Marquette vs. Syracuse Picks and Elite Eight Betting Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 3/30/2013
Much like the Wu Tang Clan, the Big East ain’t nuttin’ to f#^* wit.
The Big East, despite being much-maligned after the NCAA Tournament’s opening weekend, was the best college basketball conference in the country this year. Not the Big Ten. And anyone that says the Big Ten was the best conference is cooking up and shooting the ESPN Kool-Aid.
Regardless, the Big East is guaranteed at least one representative in the Final Four this year thanks to Syracuse and Marquette dominating their respective Big Ten and ACC opponents in the Sweet 16.
Now the No. 4 seeded Orange will square off with No. 3 Marquette at 4 p.m. on Saturday with a trip to Atlanta on the line. These two conference rivals are intimately aware of one another’s strength and weaknesses, and this matchup is the first of the tournament pitting two teams from the same league against one another.
Here is a breakdown of this weekend’s top matchup:
Marquette vs. Syracuse Betting Story Lines
Syracuse has been a godless killing machine through its first three games of the NCAA Tournament. They have physically dominated Montana, California and Indiana, and even though their 21-point average margin of victory sounds impressive it still doesn’t really encapsulate how much they have controlled all three opponents.
The advanced to this Elite Eight contest thanks to a 61-50 victory over heavily-favored Indiana. Syracuse raced out to an 18-point lead and were never threatened, thanks to 24 points from Michael Carter-Williams and 44 percent shooting as a team.
Seniors Brandon Triche (13.8 points per game) and James Southerland (13.4) team with Carter-Williams (12.1) and C.J. Fair (14.4) to give the Orange a multifaceted perimeter attack. But the real strength of their team is an active, amorphous 2-3 zone that is unlike anything in college basketball. Syracuse is No. 3 in the country in field goal defense and No. 26 in points per game allowed at just 59.1.
This tournament run, built off three wins and a runner-up showing in the Big East Tournament, is really a sea change from the Orange team we witnessed in February. Marred by turnovers and scoring droughts, the Orange stumbled from a Top 5 ranking to a No. 4 seed in The Big Dance.
But focused play, particularly from point guard Carter-Williams and center Baye Moussa Keita, have Syracuse on the precipice of their first Final Four since the 2003 National Championship team. The Orange advanced to the Elite Eight last season only to have a game against Ohio State stolen from them by shaky officiating and Jared Sullinger.
This year Marquette stands in the way.
The Golden Eagles swindled two victories in the opening rounds to advance to the Sweet 16. Once there, they mauled Miami, 71-61, and are now one win away from their first Final Four since that 2003 season.
Vander Blue (14.8) and Davante Gardner (11.4) are the team’s only double-digit scorers. But the Golden Eagles get balanced scoring from one of the most experienced rotations in the country. Senior point guard Junior Cadougan is fearless, center Chris Otule is imposing, and upperclassmen Trent Lockett and Jamil Wilson add variety on both ends.
Marquette’s run was unforeseen. But they are less Cinderella, and more Cinderella’s drunken, angry, violent stepsister. The Golden Eagles rely on relentless defensive pressure and all-out effort for their victories. They actually finished ahead of Syracuse in the Big East this year, going 14-4 and earning a piece of the regular season title.
Marquette won the only regular season meeting, 74-71, back on Feb. 25. But that game was played in Wisconsin, where the Golden Eagles went 16-0 this year. Syracuse blew a second-half lead in that game thanks in part to a 35-7 disparity at the free throw line. But the main reason for that was the devastating physical play of Gardner underneath. He was simply too big and too strong for the Orange centers, and I’m sure he will be a focal point of the Golden Eagle attack on Saturday.
Marquette vs. Syracuse Elite Eight Betting Odds and Key Trends
Syracuse has been installed as a 3.5-point favorite and the total is set at 128.5. The majority of the action is coming in on the Orange, and the total has actually been bet up from an open of 126.
The underdog is 5-1 against the spread in the last five meetings between these teams, and Marquette is on a 5-0 ATS run against Syracuse. The Golden Eagles are just 1-5 ATS in their last six games overall and just 1-4 ATS in their last five games against a team with a winning record.
The “under” is 16-7 in Syracuse’s last 23 games following a win against the number. But the “over” is 6-1 in Marquette’s last seven neutral site games and 4-1 in their last five games against a conference opponent.
Marquette vs. Syracuse Picks and Betting Predictions
I don’t think Marquette is going to beat Syracuse twice this season. The Orange will be motivated by revenge and by the fact that they have come up short of the Final Four in each of the past three seasons, even though they have had one of the most talented teams in the country each season.
Syracuse is playing much better now than they were when these two teams met last month. And you really can’t overlook Marquette’s home court advantage in that game, which is one of the most underrated in the country. But Syracuse needs to find an answer for Gardner. He went 7-for-7 from the field and 12-for-13 from the free throw line, and SU simply could not stop him in the paint. Marquette will go to him early and often on Saturday. And if the Orange big men get in foul trouble or struggle to contain him – and the rest of the Eagles crashing on the offensive glass – then Marquette will advance.
Also, Syracuse’s main weakness is that they struggle to handle pressure at times. But whether it’s game pressure or in-your-face defensive tension, the Orange guards can flake out when squeezed. If Syracuse matches Marquette’s intensity, passion and aggressiveness they are going to win this game because they have more talent and more consistent scoring. It really is up to the Orange; they are the better team and can advance to the Final Four. The question is if they want it bad enough.
I’d look at the over in this game. Marquette had an inexplicable over in their semifinal game and the Orange weren’t even close to the total in their game with Indiana. Syracuse has gone under in all three tournament games. And even though the regular season matchup was played in the 70s, I expect a more deliberate pace in this one. The Orange have only topped 70 points three times so far in March. And even though Marquette has been scoring more lately they are still prone to droughts on that end of the floor.
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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