Pick with Analysis
Going into the final stretch of the regular season, some of Louisville’s inefficiencies have come to light in recent losses. The Cardinals will be looking to avoid back-to-back losses as they travel to Syracuse on Wednesday.
Syracuse has problems of its own, having not won two straight Games since all the way back on Jan. 13. The Orange are coming off a home defeat of Duke, which isn’t all too surprising. Despite their postseason ban, they still showed plenty of fight against the Blue Devils. This is a team that has struggled both at home and on the road. In their past few Games at the Carrier Dome, they lost to Duke and Miami (FL), while only beating Virginia Tech by two points.
The Cardinals are coming off a surprising home loss in which they were 10-point favorites, yet never really looked like the better team against NC State. Their offense isn’t dynamic enough to be considered elite, and when they don’t force turnovers on defense, they can be beat. Even in a down season for Syracuse, this will be a nice test for Louisville.
Montrezl Harrell struggled to get anything going against the Wolfpack (7 points on five shot attempts), and when that happens, the Cardinals usually lose. Harrell will need to play much better in this Game, much like how Jahlil Okafor played on Saturday against the Orange (23 pts, 13 rebs). Unfortunately, Harrell lacks a bit with his offensive moves, as he’s more of an athletic playmaker. His main matchup will be with Rakeem Christmas, who struggled against Okafor, although had a solid all-around stat line. The battle of the boards will be fun to watch between those two.
Both of these offenses have similar problems on the offensive end. They both need their big men to be effective, while also needing production from their high-scoring guards. Terry Rozier and Chris Jones combined to go 8-for-27 from the field in the loss to NC State. While Michael Gbinije had a huge Game for Cuse against Duke, Trevor Cooney struggled from the floor, and to beat a team like the Blue Devils, your shooters have to hit their shots.
Gbinije will likely draw the matchup of Louisville’s Wayne Blackshear. Neither one will have a big advantage, but whoever wins that matchup will go a long way in who wins this Game. Blackshear had a great Game against NC State dropping 19 points, but when no one else plays well, that doesn’t mean much.
Syracuse isn’t overly great at holding onto the ball and going against Louisville’s press will be an immediate problem. But if the Cardinals can’t force turnovers, this could be another loss for them. They don’t have a good enough offense that will pose huge threats to the Syracuse zone. Louisville is not a good shooting team and they don’t move the ball all that well.
If the Cardinals want to get back into the Top 10, or even a top-3 seed come Tourney time, this is a Game they have to win. However, that’s going to require much better play on the offensive end.
Our Prediction – Louisville 66 Syracuse 59
*** Note – Chris Jones has been suspended for Louisville. Louisville is a -2.5 favorite currently and while this suspension will have an impact, we still like the Cards.