LSU vs Syracuse Odds, Pick
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: Matt McMahon (LSU)
LSU vs Syracuse Odds, Pick
The ACC/SEC Challenge tips off on Tuesday as two of the premier conferences in college basketball duel to see which reigns supreme. One of the 14 games across two days is the Syracuse Orange hosting the LSU Tigers at the JMA Wireless Dome.
Last week, Syracuse had the unfortunate luck of leaving the Maui Invitational with a 1-2 record, with its only win coming over Chaminade. Sure, it's a win, but it's a victory that plays zero impact on Syracuse's future resume other than an extra W in the win column.
Syracuse relies too much on Judah Mintz for its success. He's an incredibly gifted young guard who's averaging 18 points and four dimes per contest. It's always great to have an NBA-level guard until teams completely key in on him and force the others to beat you. That's the formula to limit Cuse's offense.
Syracuse needs more from its other starting guards, as JJ Starling is shooting just 6.3% (yes, 6.3%) from 3 and Chris Bell scored just six points on 2-of-18 shooting against Gonzaga.
Starling looks like a shell of himself in an off-ball scoring role, as it's an adjustment for him after he ran the point guard spot for Notre Dame during his freshman year.
The Orange's most significant offensive deficiency is their lack of 3-point shooting. Cuse is shooting just 28% from deep this season, and nobody on the roster is shooting above 36% from deep. Last year, they could rely on Joe Girard III as a perimeter marksman, but this team lacks that type of presence.
Syracuse's closest thing to an elite shooter is sophomore Justin Taylor, who's 9-of-29 from downtown in six games. He's the one guy who can open up the offense. Otherwise, teams will zone Syracuse until it can make 3s.
Conversely, LSU has found its stride, winning three consecutive games after losing two of its first three.
While Syracuse's strength is point guard play, that's the Achilles heel of LSU's offense.
LSU assumed Tulane transfer Jalen Cook would receive a waiver, and the team had no contingency plans if the waiver didn't go through.
While the point guard play is lacking, freshman Mike Williams III brings an elite defensive intensity, tallying over 2.5 steals per contest.
The Tigers rely on defense to win games. They have sufficient athleticism and length — like Tyrell Ward and Jalen Reed — to stymie opponents' offensive flow. That's a winning path against Syracuse's struggling offense.
The Tigers only tally 10 assists per game, led by forward Jordan Wright, who averages two dimes per game. Lacking a point guard leads to a lack of shot creation and limits the overall upside and flow of this offense.
Moreover, LSU's biggest avenue to exposing Syracuse's defense is using Will Baker in pick-and-pop situations against Naheem McLeod. Baker leads LSU with 16.5 points per game on highly efficient shooting numbers, and his ability to bring the not-fleet-of-foot McLeod away from the rim is massive.
Matt McMahon's game plan should be to establish Baker early and often.
As of now, the line is a pick'em between two high-major teams who desperately want a win to make a stride towards appearing in the NCAA tournament.
I want to believe in Syracuse's talent translating to wins, but it's unwise to bet on hope instead of reality.
And the reality is that Syracuse will struggle to score against a KenPom top-40 defense.
Pick: LSU ML (Play to -1.5)
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