By Greg Dempson
North Carolina, favored by 9.5 points, will appear in their 10th title game if they can defeat Syracuse tonight in Houston. Many sports broadcasters as well as gamblers and fans felt the Orange didn’t deserve to be in the tournament and instead, should have been relegated to the NIT tourney.
Even head coach, Jim Boeheim is surprised they’ve reached the final 4. It has been a strange season for Syracuse as they started the season poorly and finished the season 1–5 straight up before catching fire in the tournament. They dispatched on their first two opponents with ease, first Dayton, (70–51,) then Middle Tennessee State, (75–50,) before winning two nail biters, (63–60) vs. Gonzaga and then (68–62) vs. Virginia.
It’s the sixth final four appearance for the Orange and they did it this time as a #10 seed. Syracuse is lead by Senior Michael Gbinije, tops in scoring averaging (17.6 PPG) as well as 91 made 3-pointers. They have reached the final 4 due in part to the performances of Freshman Malachi Richardson raised his level of play with a season high-matching 23 points in their (68–62) victory over Virginia plus Tyler Lydon, with (10.2 points.
The Tar Heels are the only top seed remaining in the NCAA Tournament. They’re averaging 89.3 PPG while winning by an average of 16 PPG in the tournament. North Carolina has size, they are deep on an impressive run as they’ve reeled off nine consecutive wins with their last loss on February 27 at Virginia. The Tar Heels defeated the Orange twice this season, (1–1 ATS,) by 5 points at home, (75–70,) on February 29 as well as on the road on January 29, (84–73.)
On the Boards
· The Tar Heels get the edge here as they grabbed 40% of their missed shots this season and with that press defense that Syracuse plays that is one concern I have when backing the Orange.
· Head coach Boeheim/Team is 34–14 ATS and +18.60-units as a neutral court underdog or pick.
· Head coach Williams is 16–26 ATS and -12.60-units after 9 or more consecutive wins.
· From game 16 out, head coach Boeheim/Team is 41–17 ATS and +22.30-units) in road games vs. good free throw shooting teams that make72% or more of their attempts.
· North Carolina is 3–11 ATS after a game where they made 55% or more of their shots the last three seasons
· The Orange are 10–0 ATS when playing with five or six days rest the last three seasons.
· After nine or more straight up wins, and playing in a tournament game, play against the favorite, (N. Carolina.) This system is 29–09 = 76% ATS the past five seasons.
Final Four Pick
My Every Edge final 4 tournament selection is on the Syracuse Orange at +9.5 points.