With zero football on a Saturday for the first time since August, bettors have to concentrate on hoops and there’s a great card on tap in the college ranks. The highlight is a Big East showdown in Louisville where the top-ranked Cardinals will take on Syracuse.
Louisville (16-1 straight up, 10-7 against the spread) survived a stern test in Storrs on Monday night, recovering from a 34-28 halftime deficit to capture a 73-58 win as a 6 ½-point road favorite. The 131 combined barely stayed ‘under’ the 131 ½-point total.
Rick Pitino’s squad outscored the Huskies 45-24 in the second half thanks to lockdown defense that created fatigue for UConn’s explosive backcourt. Russ Smith scored a game-high 23 points, knocking down 10-of-20 shots from the field.
Peyton Siva overcame early foul trouble to have a second-half impact, finishing with 11 points, four assists and three steals. Chane Behanan produced 16 points, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and one blocked shot.
Syracuse (16-1 SU, 9-4 ATS) has won six consecutive games but it has dropped back-to-back contests versus the number. The Orange failed to cover in last Saturday’s 72-61 win over Villanova as a 14-point home favorite.
C.J. Fair was the catalyst for the ‘Cuse, scoring a game-high 22 points while also blocking four shots. Jerami Grant came off the bench to contribute 13 points, five boards and two rejections.
Jim Boeheim’s squad has faced seven RPI Top 100 teams, winning six times with its only loss coming in an 83-79 loss to Temple at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Orange has wins over the likes of San Diego St., Arkansas, Princeton, Long Beach St. and Detroit in non-conference play.
Louisville suffered its only loss to Duke on Nov. 24 in the Bahamas. The Cards have won eight of nine games against RPI Tip 100 teams, including scalps of Missouri, Memphis and Kentucky.
The ‘under’ is 6-5 overall for the ‘Cuse, cashing in three of its last four games. Louisville has watched the ‘over’ go 6-5 overall despite seeing three straight games go ‘under’ the total.
Syracuse swept a pair of games against Louisville last season, but the Cardinals are 7-1 ATS in the last eight head-to-head meetings. The ‘under’ is 5-2-1 in the last eight encounters.
Tip-off is slated for 4:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
--Gamblers need to get their action in early for a pair of noon Eastern games. North Carolina will host Maryland on ESPN, while Pitt will take on UConn in the Steel City on ESPN2.
--Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. were not messing around at all at The Barn on Thursday night. Hardaway was incredible all night, finishing with 21 points, five rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocked shots. He made 7-of-8 shots from the field, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc, as the Wolverines captured an 83-75 win at Minnesota as 2 ½-point underdogs. Burke had 18 points and nine assists while committing only one turnover.
--Florida faces a quick turnaround when it welcomes Missouri to The O-Dome on Saturday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. The Gators dealt out woodshed treatment to the other new SEC school Thursday in College Station, rolling to an easy 68-47 win at Texas A&M as 10-point road ‘chalk.’ Mike Rosario and Patric Young scored 19 and 18 points, respectively, in a game UF led 35-18 at intermission. Florida’s defense forced Elston Turner into a 1-for-10 shooting night less than a week after he dropped 40 points on Kentucky at Rupp Arena.
--Missouri will probably be without stud forward Laurence Bowers, who is ‘doubtful’ due to a knee injury. Bowers averages 16.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Meanwhile, the Gators will be without junior forward Casey Prather (ankle).
--There are two great mid-major tussles scheduled for Saturday. The first is Creighton at Wichita St. (4:00 p.m. on ESPN2) in a battle of Missouri Valley powers. Then at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN, Butler will collide with Gonzaga at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs might be home underdogs, however, due to the absence of Rotnei Clarke. The Arkansas transfer, who averages 16.3 PPG, will not play after sustaining a concussion last week. Clarke should be back in the next 7-10 days, if not sooner.
--Michigan St. beat Penn St. on Wednesday night just hours after Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne got into a fight at the team hotel. The incident prompted hotel employees to call the authorities, but no arrests were made. Tom Izzo didn’t allow Dawson and Payne to start, but both players played nonetheless. Izzo’s bunch will welcome Ohio St. to Breslin Center at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.