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Arizona State



March Madness



Not many expected Syracuse to be here, yet here it is in a primetime game on Wednesday. The Orange get an Arizona State team that completely fell apart in Pac-12 play. Neither one of these teams can be considered good, but someone has to win with Arizona State opening as -1 point favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook.

The best news for the Sun Devils is that they’ve already faced a similar zone defense in Washington earlier this season (Washington coach Mike Hopkins is a longtime Syracuse assistant). The bad news is that they lost that game 68-64. Unfortunately, this game will probably be fairly similar to that one unless Arizona State catches fire from deep.

According to the full-season stats, ASU is in good shape to win this one due to offense, but the last two months have changed greatly. The Sun Devils haven’t been hitting shots as easily and that led to a ninth-place finish in the Pac-12 and then a loss in its first conference tournament game to Colorado. On the other end, the biggest difference is Syracuse’s 35.1% offensive rebounding rate as Arizona State gives up offensive boards on more than 30 percent of misses. If this game is close, which it’s expected to be, the offensive rebounding could win it for the Orange.

There’s also little reason to take the Sun Devils in general because the only reason they made the tournament is because of wins in November and December. They’ve lost five of their last six and have instilled no hope in recent weeks. Of course, Syracuse has no elite wins this season and hasn’t done anything spectacular. So what do the matchups show?

Per usual, the Orange have no depth with three guys playing 38 minutes per game and two more at 27 minutes. Tyus Battle, Frank Howard and Oshae Brissett are the ones to know and all average 14.7 points per game or more. The main problem is that they all shoot a ton, but none of them make more than 34.5% from deep. That’s an immediate issue, but Arizona State’s defense is an issue, as well. It’s a question of what the length of Syracuse’s backcourt can do against smaller players like Tra Holder, Shannon Evans and Remy Martin.

That length doesn’t bode well for ASU and that’s a main reason it struggled in the earlier loss to Washington. Anyone on the Sun Devils can get hot from Evans to Kodi Justice, but when that doesn’t happen, they usually struggle to score consistently, especially without a major presence down low. It’s between Mickey Mitchell and Romello White to play the high post and neither is a guarantee to run that to perfection.

This is set to be an ugly game only because neither of these teams is playing well. The Sun Devils probably have better shooters, but against this tall zone, that may not work to plan. The problem is that the Orange can’t run away from teams with limited offensive power. ASU may be favored, but it may be safer to go with the zone defense that has more length on the perimeter.

Our Pick - Syracuse +2

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