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GEORGETOWN HOYAS (20-4) at SYRACUSE ORANGE (22-4) Line: Syracuse -7 & 123.5
Long-time rivals No. 8 Syracuse and No. 11 Georgetown will tip off for the first of two regular-season meetings Saturday afternoon.
The Hoyas are among the hottest teams in college basketball, winning eight in a row SU and ATS. That includes wins as underdogs against Notre Dame, Louisville and Cincinnati. The Orange fell to Connecticut last week, but have bounced back for two SU and ATS wins against Seton Hall and Providence. Since 2003, Syracuse is 13-5 SU (11-7 ATS) in this series, including two straight victories. The Hoyas have covered in three of the past four meetings in this series but expect that trend to end. As hot as Georgetown may be, Syracuse has been dominant at home. They are 16-0 SU and 9-3 ATS at the Carrier Dome and haven’t lost ATS in more than a month at home. Their strong offense averages 79.1 PPG at home, giving them an average win margin of 24.2 points per game at the dome.
These two teams played once last season, a narrow three-point win for the then-No. 2 Orange in overtime against the then-No. 11 Hoyas. PF Otto Porter led the way for Georgetown in that game with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting. Porter (15.1 PPG, 7.7 RPG) is leading the Hoyas offense again this year as a threat to score from anywhere on the court, also knocking down 1.3 threes per game on a phenomenal 44.6% clip. His frontcourt mate Greg Whittington is still out with academic violations, but seeing as how the Hoyas have won eight in a row, that doesn’t seem to be a problem. The other key scorer is G Markel Starks (12.4 PPG, 3.0 APG), who like Porter has been on-point from distance, hitting 42.7% of his threes. Accurate outside shooting will be key to giving the Hoyas a shot of breaking down Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone on Saturday.
No current member of the Orange scored double-digit points against the Hoyas last year as the graduated Kris Joseph carried the team to victory with 29 points. This year’s squad is led by 6-foot-6 PG Michael Carter-Williams (12.7 PPG) who is second nationally in assists (8.2 APG) and third in steals (3.0 SPG). He’s making just 38.0% FG and turning it over 3.5 times per game, but makes up for it with his elite defense and ball distribution. SG Brandon Triche (14.9 PPG) leads the offense, and over his past two games is averaging 21.5 PPG. Junior SF C.J. Fair (14.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG) is the team’s biggest asset down low, though he can stretch a defense with his shot and is coming off two consecutive double-doubles, averaging 19.5 PPG and 10.5 RPG. The team also gets a big spark off the bench from PF James Southerland (13.8 PPG), who knocks down 2.3 threes per game and scored 20 points his last time out on 7-for-8 shooting. He’s shown no trepidation since returning from academic violations, and will be key to breaking down a stingy Georgetown defense that yields just 56.1 PPG, second lowest in the Big East.
MISSOURI TIGERS (19-7) at KENTUCKY WILDCATS (18-8) Line: Kentucky -1.5 & 146.5
Still in search of sneaking into the NCAA Tournament without star freshman Nerlens Noel done for the year, Kentucky will host the nation’s top rebounding team, Missouri on Saturday night.
These two teams haven’t played each other in 13 seasons. Kentucky enters this game with its first win without Noel, a four-point victory against Vanderbilt Wednesday that marked the Wildcats’ fourth consecutive ATS loss. Missouri, meanwhile, grabs 42.2 rebounds per game, tops in the nation. Kentucky will need to find a way to keep the Tigers off the glass with the absence of its top rebounder Noel, who also leads the nation in blocked shots. When Tennessee stomped a Noel-less Kentucky team last week 88-58, it was through their ability to dominate the boards, grabbing 18 more rebounds than the Wildcats. The Tigers should be able to do the same in this one, as they haven’t been outrebounded in a month. Meanwhile, they’re coming off an impressive upset of No. 5 Florida that showed their potential to elevate their level of play.
Six double-digit scorers pace the well-balanced Missouri attack. None is more integral to the team’s successes and failures than PG Phil Pressey (11.8 PPG, 6.9 APG), who marshals the offense. He, however, struggles with turnovers, coughing it up 3.7 times per game and makes just 36.7% FG this year. PF Alex Oriakhi (10.3 PPG, 8.6 RPG) paces the team’s prolific rebounding, averaging 10.8 RPG in the team’s past four contests. He’s also a defensive specialist with 1.6 BPG. PF Laurence Bowers (14.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG) joins him in the post as a more dynamic forward who can also shoot the ball. He led the Tigers with a double-double against Florida, tallying 17 points and 10 boards. SG Jabari Brown (14.5 PPG) leads the offense in scoring as a dangerous threat from deep, hitting 2.6 threes per game. Like Pressey though, he needs to up his percentages, hitting just 39.2% FG. Guards Keion Bell (11.6 PPG) and Earnest Ross (10.5 PPG) round out the team on the wing. Bell snapped a streak of four consecutive 20-point games with a nine-point effort against the Gators.
With Noel out, the onus on replacing his minutes falls to fellow heralded freshman Willie Cauley-Stein (8.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG), who stepped up in the win against Vanderbilt with his best game of the season, notching 20 points, seven boards and three blocks. But he has been inconsistent. In the loss to Tennessee, he fouled out in just 23 minutes of play, finishing with four turnovers, two points and two boards. He’s joined in the frontcourt by sophomore PF Kyle Wiltjer (11.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG), who is dangerous from beyond the arc, hitting two threes per game. Freshman SG Archie Goodwin (13.7 PPG) paces the offense, but has also battled inconsistency. He snapped three consecutive single-digit scoring efforts with 16 points against Vanderbilt. PF Alex Poythress (11.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG) has also been kept in check lately, averaging 6.0 PPG in his past six games.

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