March 8, 2013
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SYRACUSE ORANGE (23-7) at GEORGETOWN HOYAS (23-5)
Sportsbook.ag Line: Georgetown -1.5
Two long-time rivals meet for the final time in the regular season as Big East foes when No. 17 Syracuse visits the Verizon Center looking to give No. 5 Georgetown its second consecutive loss.
Before losing to Villanova this week, the Hoyas had won 11 in a row SU (9-1-1 ATS). That included a 57-46 drubbing against the Orange, in which Syracuse was favored by eight points at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse is coming off a thumping of DePaul, winning SU and ATS, snapping a three-game skid of ATS and SU losses. Although Georgetown is 4-1 ATS in its past five meetings against Syracuse, the Orange have a knack for winning in the nation's capital, where they are 3-1 ATS in their past four trips. But the Hoyas are 15-1 SU (6-6 ATS) at home this season and 13-4 SU (12-4-1 ATS) in Big East play. Syracuse is just 5-4 SU (4-5 ATS) on the road, but appeared to get their groove back in their last game against DePaul and are 11-8 ATS coming off an SU win this season.
The Orange shot a pitiful 17-of-50 (34%) against the Hoyas in their first meeting. PG Michael Carter-Williams (12.4 PPG, 7.8 APG) went just 2-of-6 from the field in that game, scoring just seven points and adding five dimes. SF C.J. Fair (14.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG) led the Orange with 13 points against the Hoyas and has been hot lately, averaging 18.3 PPG in his past three contests. PF James Southerland (14.1 PPG), Jim Boeheim's super-sub, added 13 points in the game and is coming off a 22-point, 10-rebound performance against DePaul. He is also a dangerous shooter, hitting 2.4 threes per game. SG Brandon Triche (14.3 PPG) is Syracuse's other top scorer, though he must improve off his 4-of-13 performance when Georgetown lost to the Orange.
Otto Porter (16.6 PPG, 7.4 RPG), a National Player of the Year hopeful, carried the Hoyas past Syracuse, dropping 33 points on 12-of-19 shooting, including 5-of-10 from deep. He also added eight boards and five steals and was the only Hoyas player to make it into double-digits for the game. He has continued to be red-hot, averaging 25.0 PPG in his past four contests. The 6-foot-8 forward is hitting 44.4% of his threes this year and 50.3% of his field goals. The other key Georgetown player to watch out for is guard Markel Starks (12.2 PPG, 2.8 APG), who is also a threat to stretch the Syracuse 2-3 zone, hitting 41% threes this year. He and PF Nate Lubick (7.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 3.0 APG) lead Georgetown's ball distribution. Lubick went just 2-of-7 from the field in that first meeting but has been efficient since then, hitting 8-of-11 FG in the past three games.
FLORIDA GATORS (24-5) at KENTUCKY WILDCATS (20-10)
Sportsbook.ag Line: Florida -5.5
Slumping Kentucky is in need of a big win, and has a great opportunity to get one on Saturday afternoon when No. 11 Florida pays a visit.
The Gators are 14-3 SU (10-7 ATS) in conference play this season, but have lost two straight road games at Missouri and Tennessee. They have also been a terrible wager since the start of February, going 3-7 ATS in those 10 games. Kentucky has started March with two straight double-digit losses, falling 73-60 at Arkansas and 72-62 at Georgia. The Wildcats also lost big at Florida on Feb. 12, dropping a 69-52 decision and seeing their best player, C Nerlens Noel, go down with a torn ACL that night. Despite the recent struggles, Kentucky is 12-2 SU (8-5-1 ATS) in the past 14 home meetings with Florida, pounding them 78-58 last season.
Florida scores 72.5 PPG for the season, but has just 62.7 PPG over the past three games and 59.0 PPG in the past two road tilts. However, the Gators defense remains one of the stingiest in the land, giving up a paltry 53.0 PPG, including limiting its two March opponents to 46.0 PPG (wins versus Alabama and Vanderbilt). The Gators are 7-4 (SU and ATS) on the road this season, and have been a great wager after an ATS win at 10-3 ATS (77%). The dangerous thing about this team is their great depth, as eight players log at least 16 MPG and all eight of those players score at least 5.6 PPG. Guards Kenny Boynton (12.6 PPG, 3.0 APG) and Mike Rosario (12.6 PPG) lead the team in scoring and both are nearly automatic from the foul line at 83% FT and 85% FT, respectively. Six-foot-10 PF Erik Murphy (12.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG) also shoots well from the charity stripe (82% FT), but his greatest value is that he knocks down 47% of his threes. C Patric Young (10.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.8 BPG) controls the paint and takes high-percentage shots at 62% FG. And the offense flows very well through PG Scottie Wilbekin (9.1 PPG, 5.2 APG), who is an excellent floor general with a robust 2.52 Ast/TO ratio. All five of these players scored at least nine points in the win over Kentucky, with Young grabbing 11 boards and Wilbekin dishing out eight assists. Top reserve, swingman Casey Prather (6.6 PPG, 3.6 RPG), also played well against Kentucky with 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
Kentucky's offense is even more potent than Florida's, scoring 74.3 PPG, but the team has been held to 61.0 PPG on 41.0% FG and 9-of-40 threes (22.5%) during its two-game losing skid. The defense holds teams to 64.9 PPG this season, but has allowed 70+ points in five of the six games since Noel got hurt. Like Florida, the Wildcats have great offensive balance with six players tallying at least 9.4 PPG. SG Archie Goodwin (14.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG) leads the team in scoring, but makes just 44% FG and 28% threes. PF Alex Poythress (11.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG) is much more accurate from the field (59% FG), and also leads the club with a 43.3% clip from three-point range. SF Kyle Wiltjer (10.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG) provides accurate long-range shooting (38.2% threes) despite his 43% FG mark. PG Ryan Harrow (10.2 PPG, 3.0 APG) runs the point with a decent 1.93 Ast/TO ratio. SG Julius Mays (9.4 PPG) is the top reserve, while C Willie Cauley-Stein (8.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG) has been getting more minutes since Noel went down, averaging an excellent 12.4 PPG and 9.2 RPG in his past five contests. Cauley-Stein and Mays were the only Wildcats to score in double-figures in Gainesville last month, with each of them scoring exactly 10 points. Goodwin scored eight points with four turnovers, Poythress scored five points on a horrible 1-of-9 shooting, Wiltjer had seven points in 23 minutes, and Harrow was held scoreless (0-for-3 FG) in 19 minutes in the loss to Florida.
DUKE BLUE DEVILS (26-4) at NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS (22-8)
Sportsbook.ag Line: Pick 'em
Tobacco Road rivals No. 3 Duke and North Carolina will finish the regular season against each other at the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill Saturday night.
Since Duke beat the Tar Heels 73-68 at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Feb. 13, North Carolina has gone 6-0 SU and ATS. One of the key changes began in that game against the Blue Devils, going with a smaller lineup and starting P.J. Hairston, who is averaging 17.6 PPG in the past seven games since getting inserted into the starting lineup. Duke, however, is also improved from the first meeting with PF Ryan Kelly back in the fold after missing a 12-game stretch, including the win against the Tar Heels. Kelly has 27.0 PPG and 8.0 RPG in two games since returning from his injury. When these two teams met at the Dean Dome last year, the Blue Devils won on a last-second 3-pointer from the hands of Austin Rivers. Duke is 6-2 SU (4-4 ATS) in the past eight meetings between these rivals, but this year's Blue Devils have really struggled on the road (4-4 SU, 2-6 ATS) and have yet to beat a team in the top-half of the ACC on the road. The Tar Heels meanwhile have dominated in the Dean Dome this year, going 14-1 SU and 10-3 ATS.
Senior PF Mason Plumlee (17.0 PPG, 10.2 RPG) led the Blue Devils past the Tar Heels at Cameron, finishing with 18 points and 11 boards. Plumlee, who is hitting 59% of his field goals this season, has struggled lately, averaging just 12.0 PPG and 5.7 RPG over his past three contests. The other star of that game for Duke was sophomore PG Quinn Cook (12.6 PPG, 5.3 APG), who added 18 points and four steals. SG Seth Curry (17.0 PPG), struggled, however, with just 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting, getting frustrated by North Carolina's great size with their wing players. The one player who really needs to step up his play for Duke is freshman SG Rasheed Sulaimon (11.7 PPG), who is averaging just 5.3 PPG over his past three games. The biggest difference on this team though, between the first meeting is the return of PF Ryan Kelly (15.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG) who has been one of the best 3-point shooters in the nation, making two treys per game at a 53.1% clip. He also adds 1.6 BPG and should challenge the Tar Heels defensively with his size.
Hairston broke out in that first game against Duke, starting his second game of the season, going for 23 points and was one of three Tar Heels to add eight boards. North Carolina owned the offensive glass (18 offensive rebounds) against Duke, something that will be harder to replicate with Kelly back in action. PF James Michael McAdoo (14.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG) was one of the players to grab eight rebounds in that game, but scored just nine points. McAdoo has 15.6 PPG in his past five games. He and Reggie Bullock (14.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG) lead the Tar Heels offense. Bullock is averaging 18.3 PPG and 11.0 RPG in his past four games, incredible rebounding stats for a 6-foot-7 wing player. In the backcourt, UNC has two guards who have put the Tar Heels second in the nation in assists at 17.6 APG. SG Dexter Strickland (7.9 PPG, 4.1 APG) leads the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.39), coughing it up just 1.2 times per game. Freshman PG Marcus Paige (7.8 PPG, 4.5 APG) is also good at distributing the ball (1.85 Ast/TO ratio) and has come into his own with this new lineup. But he committed eight turnovers in Wednesday win at Maryland, something he can ill-afford to do Saturday against the No. 3 team in the country.