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LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (23-5) at SYRACUSE ORANGE (22-6) Line: Syracuse -1.5
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.
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.
MIAMI HURRICANES (23-4) at DUKE BLUE DEVILS (24-4) Line: Duke -7
Coming off its fourth road loss of the season, No. 3 Duke will look to stay undefeated at home as it hosts No. 5 Miami on Saturday night.
The Hurricanes whopped then-No. 1 Duke earlier in the season, taking down the Blue Devils 90-63 in Coral Gables on Jan. 23. But the Blue Devils are different at home where they are 14-0 SU, beating opponents by an average of 20.0 PPG. The Hurricanes, meanwhile, have lost two straight ATS on the road, though they still own an impressive 6-3-2 ATS mark away from home. Overall, Miami is 6-1-2 ATS (83%) in its past nine meetings in this series, but the Blue Devils are 11-3 SU since Miami joined the ACC. Duke has the X-factor in this one though, making the Hurricanes prepare for the potential return of PF Ryan Kelly, who dressed but did not play in the team’s 73-68 loss to Virginia on Thursday. This game will also be much more meaningful to the Blue Devils, who had the court stormed on them by Miami fans in Coral Gables. When NC State beat Duke at home earlier in the season and then rushed the court, the Blue Devils turned around to trounce them by 13 at home. The Blue Devils are a perfect 3-0 (SU and ATS) after a loss this season, winning these three games by a hefty 22.0 PPG margin. However, Miami has been one of the best wagers in all of college basketball at 16-6-2 ATS overall (73%) including 9-4-2 ATS (69%) in conference play.
Durand Scott (13.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG) led Miami with 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting in the first meeting between these two teams, adding six rebounds and four assists. Six-foot-11 PF Kenny Kadji (13.0 PPG, 6.4 RPG) dropped 22 in that game, doing so on 9-for-11 shooting. He is also a threat from deep, hitting 2-of-3 from beyond the arc in that game, and 37.9% threes for the season. He’s joined in the post by PF Julian Gamble (6.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG) and C Reggie Johnson (8.8 PPG, 7.9 RPG), who led the Hurricanes to an overtime upset of Duke at Cameron last season. Johnson dominated the post in that contest, hitting 11-of-17 shots for 27 points and 12 rebounds. And don't forget Miami’s great point guard and leading scorer Shane Larkin (13.4 PPG, 4.3 APG), who not only burned Duke for 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, but is coming off a 22-point, 6-assist effort against Virginia Tech on Wednesday.
Duke had four players score in double-figures in its loss to Miami earlier in the season, but there was no bigger disappointment in that game than SG Seth Curry (17.3 PPG), who went scoreless on 0-for-10 shooting. Since then, he has scored double-digit points in every game, and he’s coming off a 28-point performance in the team’s loss to Virginia. The Blue Devils will need a better performance from PF Mason Plumlee (17.3 PPG, 10.5 RPG) though, who scored just 10 points on 2-of-5 shooting in the loss to the Cavaliers, grabbing only seven rebounds as Duke was outrebounded 33-21. PG Quinn Cook (12.4 PPG, 5.4 APG) was Duke’s other star against Virginia, scoring 22 points. But his assist totals have been low lately with just 2.0 APG over his past three contests. SG Rasheed Sulaimon (12.1 PPG) struggled against the Cavs with just four points, snapping a streak of four games averaging 18.3 PPG. The good news is that PF Ryan Kelly (13.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG) may return for this game after being out since leaving midway through Duke’s Jan. 8 win against Clemson with a foot injury. Kelly had eight points (3-of-10 FG), seven rebounds and two blocks in last season's home loss to the Hurricanes.
ARIZONA WILDCATS (23-5) at UCLA BRUINS (21-7) Line: UCLA -1.5
No. 11 Arizona looks for payback against surging UCLA when the two schools meet on Saturday night at Pauley Pavilion.
The Wildcats were 8.5-point favorites at home versus the Bruins on Jan. 24 when they were upset 84-73, and Arizona is also trying to recover from a loss to 7-point underdog USC on Wednesday night that dropped the team to 2-5 ATS in the past seven contests. UCLA put together a strong month of February, winning five of six games SU including three straight victories. However, the Bruins needed overtime to outlast Arizona State in Wednesday's 79-74 win and failed to cover. UCLA is 12-6 SU (11-7 ATS) versus Arizona since 2006, and 6-1 SU (5-2 ATS) when hosting the Wildcats in this same timeframe. Arizona is 7-3 SU (but 4-6 ATS) on the road this season, while UCLA is 14-3 SU (but 7-9 ATS) at home.
Arizona is a quality offensive team with 73.6 PPG and high shooting percentage of 45.0% FG, 36.0% threes and 74% free throws. The Wildcats like to attack the glass with 9.9 offensive RPG and a +6.1 RPG margin, and they also have more assists (13.8 APG) than turnovers (13.1 TOPG) for the season.
Defensively, the Wildcats hold opponents to 63.3 PPG on 41.2% FG (36.2% threes), and their 7.1 steals per game comprise half of their 14.2 TOPG forced. Three Arizona players average more than 10 points with SG Mark Lyons (15.2 PPG, 3.1 APG), PF Solomon Hill (13.9 PPG, 5.3 RPG) and G Nick Johnson (11.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.2 APG). All three players shoot at least 43% from the floor and 34% from downtown. Lyons has scored in double-figures in nine straight games, and also had 16 points in the home loss to UCLA on Jan. 24. But in that defeat, Lyons was 6-of-17 FG with zero rebounds, zero assists and five turnovers in 33 minutes before fouling out. Hill committed four turnovers that day, but still posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Hill is coming off a big performance Wednesday's at USC (21 pts, 6 ast, 5 stl), but the team needs him to focus more on rebounding, as Hill has pulled down a total of five rebounds in his past two games combined. Johnson was the team's best player against UCLA earlier this season with a season-high 23 points (9-of-19 FG), five rebounds and two steals, but like Lyons, he also fouled out of that game. But Johnson's offense was severely lacking throughout the month of February with just 6.5 PPG on 36% FG.
Senior swingman Kevin Parrom (8.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG) has picked up some of that scoring slack with an impressive 17.5 PPG on 12-of-16 FG (8-of-12 threes) with 5.5 RPG in his past two games. Although Parrom made just 2-of-7 shots in the January loss to UCLA, he was able to grab six rebounds and dish out four assists.
UCLA scores 76.1 PPG, which is tops in the Pac-12 conference. And like Arizona, the Bruins shoot high percentages from all over the court with 46.2% FG, 34.5% threes and 71.6% free throws. The Bruins also rank 4th in the nation with a 1.51 Ast/TO ratio, and come up with 8.1 steals per game. This ball pressure has helped them limit opponents to 69.0 PPG on 41.6% FG. Freshman swingman Shabazz Muhammad (18.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG) has been a scoring machine, notching double-figures in all but one game this season. He also leads the Pac-12 in three-point shooting with an impressive 44.9% clip, and lit up Arizona for 23 points (8-of-16 FG, 2-of-3 threes) in the Jan. 24 upset. Although he didn't play as well on Wednesday after rolling his ankle, he is expected to start on Saturday. Freshman PF Kyle Anderson (10.0 PPG, 9.1 RPG) is averaging a hefty 13.3 PPG and 12.3 RPG in his past three contests, tallying 21 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks in Wednesday's win. He was a defensive force against the Wildcats in the last meeting with 12 rebounds and four steals in addition to his eight points. Freshman SG Jordan Adams (15.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG), who scored 15 points with five rebounds in that game, has also been on fire recently with 20.7 PPG on 62% FG in his past three contests. But this trio of talented frosh wouldn't be nearly as effective without the leadership of PG Larry Drew II (7.1 PPG), who ranks 4th in nation with 7.8 APG. Drew had nine assists and just two turnovers in the victory in Tucson on Jan. 24, but despite a stellar 3.46 Ast/TO ratio, he has committed 17 turnovers (with 26 assists) in the past three games combined. Junior PF David Wear (7.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG) came off the bench to score 15 points with eight rebounds in the win at Arizona earlier this season, but his twin brother, PF Travis Wear (11.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG) will be a game-time decision because of a sprained foot.

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