LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (23-5)
at SYRACUSE ORANGE (22-6)
Carrier Dome - Syracuse, NY
Tip-off: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET
Line: Syracuse -1.5, Total: 130.5
Big East foes both ranked among the top dozen teams in the nation will clash on Saturday afternoon when No. 10 Louisville visits No. 12 Syracuse.
These two schools played a thriller at KFC Yum! Center on Jan 19, a game the Orange bested then-No. 1 Louisville by a 70-68 score. That started a three-game slide for the Cardinals, but since ending that losing skid, they are 7-1 SU, with the lone defeat coming in five overtimes at Notre Dame. After allowing the Irish to score 104 points in that epic matchup, Louisville has given up just 54.5 PPG in four games since. Syracuse enters this game with three losses (SU and ATS) in its past five games, getting crushed by 11 points at home by Georgetown, and then falling by three at Marquette in a three-day span. From 2007-2011, Louisville had the upper hand in this series with seven straight wins, but the Orange have now won three in a row, including a 58-49 decision in the Carrier Dome last season.
Which Big East team will walk away with the crucial win on Saturday? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. StatFox Gary is 4-1 ATS in his past three days to improve to 55% ATS (91-76-4) for college basketball Best Bets this season. StatFox Dave is 4-1 ATS since Thursday, and is now 52% ATS (150-140-5) for the season.
Syracuse scores a solid 74.0 PPG, but does not shoot particularly well, making 44.7% FG on 32.2% threes (232nd in nation) and 68.4% free throws (201st in D-I). However, the Orange allow just 59.7 PPG thanks to stingy FG Pct. defenses of 37.1% overall (4th in nation) and 28.7% threes (9th in D-I). These low percentages are partly the result of 6.4 blocks per game (5th in the nation), and the Orange also do a great job at stepping into passing lanes with 9.5 steals per game (9th in D-I). Despite playing mostly its signature 2-3 zone, which isn't always conducive to proficiency in rebounding, Syracuse is holds an impressive +4.8 RPG margin. PG Michael Carter-Williams (12.5 PPG) ranks second in the nation with 7.9 APG, and is fourth in the country with 2.93 steals per game. He was the player of the game for Syracuse in the earlier defeat of Louisville, scoring 16 points, seven assists four rebounds and four steals, with the last one coming in the final minute leading to his go-ahead dunk. Carter-Williams did commit eight turnovers in that game, however. SG Brandon Triche (14.5 PPG) is the team's top scorer, and he netted a team-high 23 points against the Cardinals on Jan. 19, knocking down 9-of-13 shots and 5-of-7 threes, while grabbing six rebounds. SF C.J. Fair (14.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG) is the team's most accurate shooter both from the floor (49.2% FG) and from the foul line (82.1%). Fair scored 10 points and pulled down eight boards while playing all 40 minutes against Louisville. Freshman SF Jerami Grant (4.9 PPG, 3.1 RPG) came off the bench to contribute 10 points and five rebounds in the win over the Cardinals, but has played just 11.3 MPG in his past four contests, scoring a total of six points on 2-of-7 FG. Senior PF James Southerland (13.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG) didn't play against Louisville because of an NCAA suspension, but he is the team's best weapon from behind the arc, making 2.4 threes per game on a healthy 39% clip this season. He's scored at least 10 points in all six games since returning from the suspension, averaging 14.3 PPG over this span.
Louisville produces results similar to the Orange with 74.4 PPG and just 58.5 PPG allowed for a +15.9 PPG margin (4th in nation). The Cardinals aren't a great shooting team either (44.6% FG, 32.0% threes), but their guards have quick hands, coming up with a whopping 10.8 steals per game (3rd in nation). They also hold a +4.9 RPG margin and limit opponents to 39.1% FG and 32.0% threes. SG Russ Smith (18.4 PPG) is the team's top scoring threat and was the only Louisville player in double-figures in the home loss to Syracuse in January, pumping in 25 points (8-of-17 FG) and tallying four steals on the defensive end. He's scored at least a dozen points in nine straight games. PF Chane Behanan (11.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG) has put up some big numbers in his past five games with 13.6 PPG and 8.8 RPG. He also had four steals in the earlier meeting with Syracuse to go along with nine points and 11 rebounds (six offensive). PG Peyton Siva (10.1 PPG, 6.0 APG) could not find his shot against the Syracuse zone in the last meeting, managing a paltry three points on 1-of-9 shooting. But he was all over the court in Wednesday's blowout win at DePaul with 16 points, six assists, four rebounds and two steals. C Gorgui Dieng (9.8 PPG, 9.9 RPG) scored just four points (1-of-5 FG) against the Orange on Jan. 19, but contributed greatly in other areas with eight rebounds (five offensive), six assists and five blocks. He's averaging 12.8 PPG, 10.4 RPG and 2.4 BPG over his past five contests.