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Big East Basketball Pick
Here we go again, the powers of the Big East Round 2. This time it's a little different as both teams have kind of fallen off since the last meeting back in January. That game took place when everyone thought Louisville and Syracuse were the class of the conference and no one else stood a chance. We've come a long way since then as Georgetown is now in sole possession of first and Marquette is also up there.
Syracuse slipped up since their win at Louisville and is now 4-5 in their last nine games. They are coming off two straight losses against the teams mentioned above and only scored 46 points at home against the Hoyas. The return of James Southerland has not pushed them over the top which was the general thought while he missed six games. Even though he's averaging three three-pointers per game and double-digits every night, he hasn't been the answer to Syracuse's problems.
The Cardinals are seemingly over their rough stretch from when they lost three straight games back in January, with the first loss coming to Syracuse. Since, they have won seven of their last eight games with the lone loss being in five overtimes at Notre Dame. While the numbers are impressive, they haven't had the toughest of schedules as of late. Sure, they beat Pittsburgh and Marquette in back-to-back games, but both of those were at home. On the road against top of the conference competition, Louisville has not come through. Their best road win was back on Jan. 14 against Connecticut. That's not exactly a confidence booster.
The last time these teams played, Southerland was not available for Syracuse which doesn't help Louisville at all. While Jerami Grant filled in well in Southerland's spot, he's not quite the same player. Southerland has the ability to stretch the floor with his long-range shot whereas Grant is more of an inside player. Brandon Triche was hitting his shots in the last matchup which helps, but Michael Carter-Williams was a constant problem for the Cardinals. He helped out defensively with four steals and two blocks and offensively had 16 points and seven assists. His eight turnovers didn't look very good, but that will unlikely happen again. MCW's major contributions came at the end of the game when he scored 11 of Syracuse's final 13 points and assisted on the only basket that he didn't shoot. In addition to him, C.J. Fair has probably been Syracuse's hottest player, reaching 19 points in three of the last four games to go with nine rebounds per game. He didn't have much success against Gorgui Dieng in the last game, so that will be a matchup to watch.
Speaking of Dieng, he's continued his usual dominance in the paint for the Cards. Against Seton Hall, he finished with 23 points, eight boards and three blocks. Against St. John's he had 10 points and 17 boards. He had five blocks against Syracuse in the first game, but it's his offense that may be more important in this one as he previously only had four points. Peyton Siva had trouble against the Orange zone finishing with only three points on 1-of-9 shooting. Without a great shot, this is the type of defense that gives Siva problems. Russ Smith continues to be the shot taker and play maker in this Louisville offense. He was the only one in double-digits in the first matchup and he had 25 points.
The Cardinals rise and fall with Smith's shot and if it's not falling against this zone, it's going to be hard for them to win on the road. The Orange lost in their last home game and will look to start another home winning streak. This game should once again be a nail biter.
Predicted Score - Louisville 63 Syracuse 62
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