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Syracuse Could Be Deep Enough To Win Title Without Southerland

Last season, the Syracuse Orange had the deepest team in the country and many believed Jim Boeheim's club was going to be the team to beat in the NCAA Tournament. Syracuse was the No. 1 seed in the East Regional and entered the tournament at 31-2.

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However, any realistic chance the Orange had at winning a second national championship in school history ended when center Fab Melo was ruled ineligible on the eve of the Big Dance. The Big East Defensive Player of the Year also missed three regular-season games in 2011-12 and SU's lone regular-season loss was when Melo sat out. The Orange also were upset in the Big East Tournament semifinals by Cincinnati.

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Unfortunately for Boeheim, his 2012-13 team also could have to play postseason basketball without a key starter. That would be senior James Southerland. He was suspended by the school on January 12 also because of an eligibility issue. Reports are that the NCAA is looking into whether a tutor wrote part of a term paper for Southerland. The 6-foot-8 forward is currently second on the team in scoring at 13.6 points per game and third in rebounding (5.2 per game).

The Orange (18-1, 6-0 Big East) haven't missed Southerland, beating Villanova, upsetting No. 1 Louisville and holding off No. 21 Cincinnati on Monday for their 35th-straight home win, the longest active streak in Division I (Orange only covered at Louisville). It would seem that the NCAA would reinstate Southerland if it's truly such a minor issue, but it won't be by Saturday's game at Villanova.

It's not inconceivable that Syracuse could win out in the conference because it faces only two more currently ranked teams and both are in the Carrier Dome. The Orange, who are +1500 to win the NCAA title, are No. 4 nationally in field-goal defense with their vaunted 2-3 zone, and Boeheim again has a deep bench. He plays eight players at least 14 minutes a game (including Southerland), and guard Michael Carter-Williams could be the leading candidate for Big East Player of the Year. He's averaging 12.3 points in a team-high 33.6 minutes as well as a national-leading 9.2 assists per game. Carter-Williams has struggled from the field in the three games Southerland has missed, shooting 13-for-35.

Syracuse isn't the only Big East school dealing with a missing key starter over school work. Georgetown (13-4, 3-3) has declared sophomore forward Greg Whittington academically ineligible indefinitely. Whittington ranks first on the team in minutes (35.2) and second in points (12.1) and rebounds (7.0) per game. Whittington's situation apparently is much more serious, with Coach John Thompson III saying he hopes Whittington will be able to play again this season. The Hoyas have won three of four (3-1 ATS) without him, including an upset at No. 24 Notre Dame on Monday.

Georgetown hosts No. 5 Louisville on Saturday, the first of three-straight conference home games for the Hoyas. GU is 9-1 at home overall but just 1-5 ATS. It's perhaps the final meeting as conference foes between Louisville and Georgetown with both schools headed out of the Big East perhaps as early as next year. There will be live play-by-play betting at the book. The Cardinals figure to be in a feisty mode as they enter on a two-game losing streak after being upset at Villanova on Tuesday as 11.5-point favorites.

Injury Updates

Both No. 9 Butler and No. 22 Missouri are hoping to get arguably their best players back Saturday. Bulldogs senior guard Rotnei Clarke, the team's leading scorer at 16.3 ppg, has missed three games after a scary fall on January 12 at Dayton. Clarke was lucky to emerge with just a sprained neck. He unfortunately missed last Saturday's epic 64-63 Butler win over Gonzaga at the buzzer, easily the best college game so far this season. Clarke was in the celebratory scrum and is on track to return for Saturday's home game against Temple.

Missouri has struggled without senior forward Laurence Bowers, who leads the team in points (16.8) and is second in rebounds (6.9). He missed his fourth-straight game Tuesday against South Carolina, but the Tigers are hopeful he can play Saturday at home versus Vanderbilt. Mizzou also is dealing with the fallout of Coach Frank Haith reportedly being implicated in recruiting violations while head coach at Miami (Fla.). The NCAA is expected to notify Haith of allegations of "unethical conduct and failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance." It's not implausible that Missouri might have to dismiss Haith after this season if the sanctions against him include a show cause penalty.

Other Live Betting Games

On Thursday night, the book will offer Purdue at No. 2 Michigan, UCLA at No. 6 Arizona and BYU at No. 10 Gonzaga.

The Bruins and Wildcats were expected to fight it out for the Pac-12 title and both have just one conference loss. The problem is that no one expected Oregon to be this good. The Ducks already have knocked off both UCLA and Arizona and are the only team without a loss in conference play entering Wednesday's home game with Washington State.

Still, there will be seven freshman high school All-Americans on the floor Thursday night in Tucson. After a slow start, UCLA had won 10 in a row before losing at home to Oregon last Saturday. The Bruins' flaw is clearly rebounding as they don't really have a true center with the transfer of Joshua Smith. Oregon won the battle of the boards 40-31, the sixth time in the past seven games UCLA has been outrebounded. Arizona, meanwhile, leads the Pac-12 in rebounding margin.

There are no Live Betting NCAA basketball games at the book Friday or Sunday, but Alabama at Tennessee will also be offered on Saturday along with Louisville-Georgetown.

Best in Class: Bovada's got the largest daily offering of college basketball team Props around. Raise Your Game.

  
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