Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, February 24, 2014 at 7:00 AM
Last week they were undefeated and the number one team in the country. Monday Night, they’re trying to avoid their third loss in a row! The Syracuse Orange will be dealing with a brutal schedule spot as they visit the Maryland Terrapins just two nights after suffering a tough loss at Duke in a game that will be nationally televised by ESPN.
We resume our nightly big game previews Monday with this Syracuse/Maryland showdown. We’ll continue in-depth coverage in this format all the way down the road to March Madness and through the Big Dance. It’s time to kick things up a notch in college basketball!
Let’s run through our indicator stats for this tough Syracuse test…
Syracuse: #10 in Pomeroy, #11 in Sagarin
Maryland: #48 in Pomeroy, #59 in Sagarin
The computers don’t see Syracuse as an Elite 8 team at the moment, let alone a threat for #1 in the nation. College basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin are in agreement that Syracuse is right around #10. That’s still a team capable of going the distance because anything can happen in the Dance…but not a team that’s automatic to be lethal in the later rounds. Nobody currently has Maryland heading to the Dance. They’re barely on the radar in bubble discussions. It should be noted that a win over Syracuse would put the Terps over the .500 mark in the ACC (they’re currently 7-7)…and could launch a late season surge that would put them into more serious discussions. It will take a win here AND that surge to get Maryland anywhere near the brackets.
Offensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
Maryland must overachieve what those numbers are suggesting to spring a Monday upset. It’s hard for great offenses to score on the Syracuse zone. Maryland is way off the pace on that side of the ball. Top 80 is okay nationally when over 300 teams are being graded. But, it’s well below par for “quality” basketball. Syracuse gets a lot of ink about their defense, but their offense is currently top 20 caliber according to Pomeroy’s data. Keep that in mind as you handicap going forward.
Defensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
Both teams are better on defense than on offense. Clearly Syracuse is superior in the stuff that matters. The question for handicappers here is whether or not fatigue and a loss of confidence could work together to drop the Orange down to Maryland’s level. If both teams were fresh…and this game were on a neutral court, there’s not much doubt about Syracuse’s superiority. But, a tired visitor…reeling from a two-game losing streak…will be facing a fired up host in a must-win situation…in front of a crowd that’s just dying to charge the court after an upset (regardless of what old fuddy-duddies think about court storming)
Here’s a nice sleeper angle that could work out very well in Maryland’s favor. Where there are extreme differences in approach (which we see here), it’s often the home-team’s style that forces the flow of the game. Maryland hopes to run Syracuse out of the gym…which could work out very well if the Orange can’t get their legs back from Saturday Night.
Against the Spread
Both teams have been cashing tickets this season. It’s amazing that Syracuse has been able to do so consistently with such a great won-lost record. They established superiority early in the season, but the market took a long time to catch up. Maryland has been a quiet money-maker thus far.
JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with his sources to determine the mindset and readiness of Syracuse heading into this big TV game. We have very clear BLOWOUT potential on both sides of the coin. Tired, demoralized Syracuse could get steamrolled if they no show. But, fired up Syracuse with a chip on its shoulder could coast to a road win, particularly if Maryland’s sluggish offense can’t get any good looks against the zone.
The final word for Monday will be posted by lunchtime here at the website. You can purchase this week’s edition of MONDAY MAGIC with your credit card. Questions about seasonal packages can be answered during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155.
Back with you tomorrow to discuss the Florida/Vanderbilt game, as the Gators try to win at a potentially dangerous site. Big game previews will continue through these final days of the regular season and all the way through the conference tournaments and postseason. Be sure you’re with us daily for great handicapping information right here in the NOTEBOOK. And, hook up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!