Tuesday College Basketball Betting: Syracuse-North Carolina, Akron-Buffalo

Tuesday College Basketball Betting: Syracuse-North Carolina, Akron-Buffalo article feature image

USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: C.J. Massinburg and Cameron Johnston

The last week in February is the time for conference leaders to flex their muscles. Let’s take a closer look at two big favorites on Tuesday night to see if it’s worth laying double-digit points with one or both.

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Betting Odds: Syracuse Orange at North Carolina Tar Heels

  • Spread: North Carolina -12
  • Over/Under: 146.5
  • Time: 9 p.m. ET
  • TV: ACC Network

Syracuse (18-9) has accumulated its 9-5 conference record by beating up on the bottom teams in the ACC. Its only win over a team ahead of it in the conference standings came against Duke on Jan. 14 when the Blue Devils played without Cam Reddish and lost point guard Tre Jones in the first six minutes. Overall, the Orange are 14-12 against the spread, but just 1-4 against the upper echelon ACC teams.

Syracuse’s defensive numbers look better nationally than in conference. Overall, the Orange rank 16th in adjusted defensive efficiency but only seventh within the ACC. They also rank 60th in the country in 2P% but only eighth within the conference. In short, Syracuse’s zone defense has confused non-conference opponents much more than ACC foes.

On the other end, the Orange have struggled all around on offense. Syracuse ranks 259th in effective field goal percentage and 285th in 3P shooting. Its usual free throw shooting woes have also continued, as the Orange rank second-worst in the ACC at 67.1%.

Meanwhile, North Carolina (22-5) is playing its best basketball of the season, coming off back-to-back wins over Duke and Florida State by an average of 17 points. The Tar Heels are also one of the best teams in the country against the spread at 17-7-2.

Fun fact: A $100 bettor would have $3,571 by simply betting North Carolina every game since 2005, per our data at Bet Labs; only Villanova would have returned more.

North Carolina looks the part of a Final Four team on both ends of the floor. The Tar Heels rank top 10 nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiency and also rank second in the ACC in effective field goal percentage and 3P%.

However, the key to this particular game will be North Carolina’s huge rebounding advantage. The Tar Heels rank first in the country with an average of 42.8 rebounds per game — including 27th in offensive rebounds per game. The weakness of any zone is rebounding, and Syracuse ranks 298th in offensive rebounding percentage allowed.

North Carolina is superior at 3P efficiency and rebounding, the two weaknesses of a zone defense. With Syracuse struggling on offense and the game being in Chapel Hill, it’s easy to see the Tar Heels pulling away comfortably in the second half.

Take Tar Heels to continue this hot run and cover the double-digit spread.

THE PICK:  UNC -12.5

Betting Odds: Akron Zips at Buffalo Bulls

  • Spread: Buffalo -13
  • Over/Under: 145.5
  • Time: 7 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN+

Akron (15-12 overall and 11-14 against the spread) has been extremely inconsistent during head coach John Groce’s second season. The Zips have experienced both three-game winning and losing streaks and currently sit at 7-7 in the Mid American Conference East standings. Akron has especially struggled on the road where it has just one win in nine tries.

Buffalo (24-3) holds a tenuous one-game lead in the MAC over Bowling Green, which defeated the Bulls 92-88 on Feb. 1. However, the Bulls have won five straight games since that loss, including three home games by an average of 28 points. Buffalo is a perfect 12-0 at home and has an impressive ATS record of 16-8-1.

Akron has the worst offense in the MAC and one of the worst in the entire country. It ranks last in effective field goal percentage, offensive rebounding percentage, 3P% and 2P% It pretty much struggles in every possible category on offense outside of turnovers and free throw shooting.

The Zips do have the No. 1 defense in the conference as measured by Adjusted Efficiency, yet they’re still just 1-6 on the road in MAC play.

By contrast, Buffalo has the top offense  in the conference and one of the best in the nation. The Bulls rank first in the MAC in adjusted offensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage and 2P%.

But the difference with Buffalo is its defense is also highly efficient. It sits right behind Akron in the conference, ranking second in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Bulls also rank first in the MAC in turnovers forced per game (16.2 — and third in defending the three.

Everything points to a Buffalo blowout win tonight. Buffalo has a much better offense with an almost equivalent defense. The Bulls have been dominant at home all season and need this game to stay ahead of Bowling Green for the regular season conference title. Lastly, in their last 15 home games the Bulls are an impressive 11-4 ATS.

Akron played Buffalo tough in a close home loss (76-70), but there’s no reason to think its road woes reverse course at the toughest venue in the MAC conference. Ride with the Bulls at home.

THE PICK:  Buffalo -13

Editor’s note: The opinions on these games are from the individual writer and are based on his research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.