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North Carolina vs Syracuse Betting Odds, Picks: Can Orange Keep It Close?

North Carolina vs Syracuse Betting Odds, Picks: Can Orange Keep It Close? article feature image
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Bryan Bennett/Getty Images. Pictured: Joseph Girard III

North Carolina vs Syracuse Odds

Tuesday, Jan. 24
9 p.m. ET
ESPN
North Carolina Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
-4.5
-115
147.5
-110o / -110u
-210
Syracuse Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
+4.5
-105
147.5
-110o / -110u
+170
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

When Roy Williams coached North Carolina, his teams often had a major rebounding and transition advantage and beat Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. Williams is gone now, and Tuesday is the second meeting between these Hubert Davis Tar Heels and Jim Boeheim after Syracuse took Carolina to overtime in Chapel Hill last season.

North Carolina is fresh off a rivalry victory against North Carolina State last weekend and there are signs that the Tar Heels might be figuring some of their early season woes out. They’ve now won three straight conference games. Despite this, the Tar Heels are just 2-6 in road games this season.

Syracuse once again doesn’t look like a NCAA Tournament team because of its poor non-conference showing. Yet they’ve outperformed expectations thus far in conference play and are showing development as one of Boeheim’s youngest ever teams. The Orange were competitive at Virginia and Miami and did handle Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.

North Carolina’s perimeter issues and mediocre splits against zones provide value on the Orange at home on Tuesday.


North Carolina Tar Heels

North Carolina shot the ball really well from the perimeter last season, but there was certainly some air in those numbers entering this season and it has regressed from beyond the arc. The Tar Heels lost Brady Manek, a 40% 3-point shooter. R.J. Davis is still an excellent perimeter shooter, but Caleb Love is still taking mediocre shots and not making them much.

Love shot a respectable 36% last season, but he was just a 26% shooter the year before and has fallen back to 27% this season. I don’t think Carolina’s true shooting percentage from deep is 31.6% as a team, but ShotQuality says the Heels are outside the top 200 in off-the-dribble and spot-up shooting. The expected true shooting percentage is just 32%.

Pete Nance was supposed to be the replacement for Manek in this offense, but he doesn’t do nearly enough to score from the perimeter to space the zone out. Manek had 22 points and made three 3s in the game last season or Carolina would have lost against this zone.

If you’re not able to consistently make open perimeter looks against Syracuse, it’s hard to score at the rim without offensive rebounds.

The Tar Heels have seen zone at a decent clip this year and haven’t fared nearly well against it when compared to their man numbers. Per Synergy, the Tar Heels are in the 71st percentile offensively when seeing zone and 87th percentile vs. man. Because Carolina has so many of the same players, you can use last year’s sample too. Carolina fared better vs. man last year too.

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Syracuse Orange

Syracuse’s offense doesn’t run out in transition a ton, but it could have major success against a poor Tar Heels defensive transition unit. The Heels are in the ninth percentile in transition defense, per Synergy, and Syracuse is top 100 in ShotQuality when it does push the tempo in the half-court.

The biggest question for the Orange all season on offense has been which Joe Girard will show up. He had a handful of bad games in the non-conference, but he’s returned to his dynamic scoring self in the league. Girard has made 38% from 3 this season and scored at least 20 points in six of the nine conference games.

Syracuse isn’t going to give up many transition opportunities to Carolina because it doesn’t turn the ball over much at all. The Orange also should be able to get Girard plenty of looks from 3. The Tar Heels’ perimeter defense and even mid-range defense doesn’t grade out well based on ShotQuality. They’re one of the worst mid-range defenses in the nation and are just average against off the dribble 3s, where Girard does most of his damage.

The matchup is solid for Girard and this Syracuse offense. Add in how reliant UNC is on getting to the free throw line against a Syracuse defense that doesn’t foul much because of the zone and this game should be closer to a toss-up than the line suggests.

North Carolina vs Syracuse Betting Pick

North Carolina’s offense is heavily dependent on post-ups through Armando Bacot and pick-and-rolls via the two excellent playmaking guards. The Tar Heels don’t have a natural player to sit at the high post and while Bacot is sure to dominate on the offensive glass, Carolina won’t be able to live at the line either.

There are still a ton of holes in this Carolina defense, including its ball screen defense. Syracuse will use a lot of screens off the ball to generate downhill opportunities for Girard and its other young playmakers. Carolina grades out poorly in transition defense and is mediocre in ball screen defense.

Carolina won’t get enough stops on the road to cover a multiple possession spread. While Carolina of old might just dominate the glass, this one is built to do that to the same extent. I’d bet Syracuse at +4 or better.

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