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College Basketball Picks: Is Syracuse Bound From First Four to Final Four?
Can The Orange Leave Duke Feeling Blue?
Are the Syracuse Orangemen for real? The Arizona Wildcats, TCU Horned Frogs and Michigan State Spartans would argue in the affirmative. All three schools stood in the path of the Orangemen since the NCAA Tournament got underway, and all three of them will be watching the Sweet Sixteen on television thanks to Jim Boeheim's Syracuse squad.
Next up are their ACC rivals, the second-seeded Duke Blue Devils, who've already beaten Syracuse 60-44 in regular-season play, and if they succeed there, a likely date with top-seeded Kansas in the Midwest Regional final. Virginia Commonwealth rolled all the way from the First Four to the Final Four in 2011. Can Syracuse make that history repeat itself?
Over in the East Region, they've bucked the trend of this year's March Madness, and the form charts have held firmer than Beyonce's physique. The top three seeds - Villanova (1), Purdue (2) and Texas Tech (3) - all remain in the hunt, joined by No. 5 West Virginia. Only No. 4 Wichita State has gone home.
Will that trend of favorites carrying the day continue on this side of the bracket? Which teams will advance to the regional finals? Let's analyze each game, utilizing the odds provided by Bovada.
NCAA Tournament - East Region
(5) West Virginia (+185) vs. (1) Villanova (-225) Spread: -5.5 Over: 152
The Top-scoring team in the nation (86.9 points per game), the Wildcats can expect a punishing test from the Mountaineers and their physical brand of basketball. West Virgina loves to press and will force Villanova to earn every inch of the court. The Mountaineers average 80 points per game and won their first two tournament games by a combined margin of 40 points. This game could come down to which point guard exerts his dominance, Villanova's Jalen Brunson or West Virginia's Jevon Carter.
(3) Texas Tech (+105) vs. (2) Purdue (-125) Spread: +1.5 Under: 137
One thing about Red Raiders coach Chris Beard - he knows how to take out a Boilermaker. When Painter was coaching Arkansas-Little Rock in 2016, he led them to to a stunning upset of the Matt Painter-coached Purdue in the Tournament. Texas Tech will apply relentless pressure on Purdue. Three of their top guards - Zhaire Smith, Jarrett Culver and Keenan Evans - average more than a steal per game. Evans is averaging 22.5 points through two games. And the Boilermakers may be without big man Isaac Haas (elbow).
(5) Clemson (+180) vs. (1) Kansas (-220) Spread: -4.5 Over: 143
The Jayhawks have the pedigree, with 14 straight Big 12 titles, two Final Four appearances and a 2008 NCAA Tournament title under coach Bill Self. Senior Devonte' Graham, the Big 12 player of the year, is the only player in the nation to average more than 17 points, seven assists and 1.7 steals and commit fewer than three turnovers per game. Kansas is playing in its 29th straight March Madness, an NCAA record. The Tigers are in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1997.
(11) Syracuse (+500) vs. (2) Duke (-800) Spread: -11.5 Under: 133
Yes, the Blue Devils beat the Orangemen in ACC play, but they only put up 60 points, their lowest output of the season average. But Duke held Syracuse to just 44 points. Both teams prefer a zone as their primary defense, so expect another low-scoring affair. Syracuse ranks No. 5 in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency (92.3 points allowed per 100 possessions, while Duke is No. 8 (93.3 points allowed against per 100 possessions). The Blue Devils lead the nation in points in the paint and second-chance scoring.
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