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Syracuse vs. UCONN
Big East Basketball Pick
The Connecticut Huskies find themselves in a similar position to last year but do not have same star player leading them this season. The Huskies (17-10, 7-8 Big East) have dropped seven of their past 10 games, going 2-7-1 against the spread. But they got a much-needed 73-70 road victory Monday on the road against the Villanova Wildcats, heading into Saturday’s huge home showdown with the second-ranked Syracuse Orange (28-1, 15-1) at 9:00 p.m. (ET) on ESPN.
UConn rode Kemba Walker all the way to the NCAA title in 2011 despite losing eight of their last 11 games of the regular season. The Huskies ended their improbable national championship run with an 11-game winning streak, going 10-1 against the spread. Duplicating that feat seems even more impossible this year considering they are without Walker and head coach Jim Calhoun, who has been on a medical leave of absence since February and will undergo back surgery next week.
Associate head coach George Blaney has taken over on the Connecticut bench and seen the team go 3-3 since Calhoun took his leave. One of those three losses for the Huskies was an 85-67 road rout at the hands of the Orange as 10-point underdogs on February 11. They have won two of three since then and got a game-winning 3-pointer from guard Shabazz Napier from nearly half court with less than a second remaining in OT to beat the Wildcats in their latest victory.
Syracuse started very slowly en route to its eighth straight win on Wednesday, 56-48 over the South Florida Bulls. The Orange were down 20-7 before scoring 26 consecutive points during a stretch of almost 11 minutes between the end of the first half and the beginning of the second. Senior point guard Scoop Jardine scored a team-high 15 points and was the only Syracuse player to connect on more than half of his shots from the field.
Jardine also enjoyed a nearly perfect shooting performance in the first meeting with UConn, totaling a season-high 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting, including 4-of-4 from 3-point range. Sophomore forward Jeremy Lamb led the Huskies with 18 points against the Orange, and he is coming off a career-high 32 against Villanova.
Lamb was a key member of last year’s championship team and had 11 points in a 76-71 overtime win over Syracuse in the 2011 Big East tournament semifinals. Walker scored 33 in that game while Jardine and senior forward Kris Joseph each had 20 for the Orange, who are off to their best start ever this year but have failed to cover three straight and seven of their past 10.
Our score prediction model has this one 66-64 Syracuse when using season to date data. When using data from only the last 7 games, the numbers don't change much, 65-62 with Syracuse on top.
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