West Virginia vs. Syracuse Betting Odds & Picks: Back the Orange in Second Round of NCAA Tournament

West Virginia vs. Syracuse Betting Odds & Picks: Back the Orange in Second Round of NCAA Tournament article feature image
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Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images. Pictured: Syracuse guard Buddy Boeheim.

West Virginia vs. Syracuse Odds


West Virginia Odds -4
Syracuse Odds +4
Moneyline -190 / +155
Over/Under 148
Time | TV Sunday, 5:15 p.m. ETCBS
Odds as of Sunday afternoon and via DraftKings.

Fans of old-school Big East basketball will be thrilled to see the West Virginia-Syracuse rivalry renewed in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

All college basketball fans will appreciate this matchup between two of the winningest coaches in the history of the sport. Bob Huggins just picked up his 900th career win on Friday night, and Jim Boeheim has won 1,082 games as Syracuse’s head coach, although the NCAA only recognizes 981 of those victories.

This may be the best offensive team that Huggins has had during his stint with the Mountaineers.

West Virginia (19-9, 11-6 Big 12) comes into this tournament battle-tested after playing a tough Big 12 schedule. A number of impressive regular-season wins it them a 3-seed, and the Mountaineers had no issue dispatching Morehead State in the opening round, 84-67.

The Orange (17-9, 9-7 ACC) were far from a lock to get into this tournament and were fortunate to earn an 11-seed and avoid the First Four.

So far, they’ve made the most of their draw, steamrolling past 6-seed San Diego State, 78-62, in the first round in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.

Syracuse guard Buddy Boeheim is playing as well as anyone in the country at the moment, and he continued his hot shooting with 30 points against the Aztecs on Friday.

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West Virginia Mountaineers

The Mountaineers are not a fun team to play against due to their physicality and constant defensive pressure.

While the defense will always be there for a Huggins-coached team, this year’s squad is dangerous due to its offensive prowess. The Mountaineers put up 77.3 points per game and rank 10th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency.

Point guard Miles McBride is the straw that stirs the drink for this offense, and he’s had a fantastic sophomore season. McBride leads the team in scoring (16 per game), assists (4.8), and steals (1.9). Perhaps the most impressive part of his game is his improvement as a 3-point shooter. McBride shoots 40.6% from downtown, over 10% better than his average as a freshman (30.4%).

The Mountaineers will need McBride, along with Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil, to come up big from the outside against the Orange zone. West Virginia is a respectable 35.7% from deep as a team, but it’ll have its work cut out for it against a Syracuse team that defends the 3 very well.

Another way to attack the zone is to get it a big man in the middle or on the baseline.

West Virginia has one of the nation’s most talented forwards in Derek Culver (14.5 ppg), who will need to have a big night on Sunday. He isn’t much of a threat outside of the paint, but if the team can get him the ball inside with room to operate, he should be able to do plenty of damage.

Defensively, the Mountaineers are a little down compared to years past under Huggins, but they’re still strong on this end.

West Virginia ranks 65th in adjusted defensive efficiency. West Virginia normally banks on forcing turnovers with its pressure. But it ranks 70th in defensive turnover rate this season, per TeamRankings, down from 27th a year ago.

Syracuse Orange

The Orange have been excellent on the offensive end this season and rank 15th in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom. Their firepower was on full display in the first-round win over San Diego State.

Syracuse was 15-of-27 from deep against the Aztecs, with Buddy Boeheim leading the way, finishing 7-of-10 from beyond the arc. Boeheim has been on an absolute tear of late, scoring 30 or more points in back-to-back games and averaging 24.1 over his last eight.

The Orange also received big nights from Joe Girard III and Marek Dolezaj. Girard hit three triples and finished with 12 points and seven assists. Dolezaj, an incredibly unselfish player and gifted passer for a forward, chipped in 11 points and five assists.

Another impressive element to Syracuse’s offensive performance on Friday night was how well it played despite getting little contribution from Quincy Guerrier and Alan Griffin.

The duo combines to average 28.1 points per game but scored just three total on Friday. Getting other players involved and shooting 55% from the floor against a top-15 defense was a great sign for the Orange going forward.

Defensively, the Orange haven’t been as strong as they typically are under Boeheim. They rank just 91st in adjusted defensive efficiency and struggle rebounding the ball out of the 2-3 zone.

Syracuse lost starting center Bourama Sidibe to an injury in the first game and the year, which left the Orange without a true center and forced Dolezaj to play out of position and man the middle in the back of the zone.

This really contributed to the Orange’s defensive rebounding struggles.

However, Jim Boeheim has gained more confidence in 6-foot-11 sophomore Jesse Edwards in recent weeks, and he’s given the Orange strong minutes off the bench and help on the glass. His contribution will be critical against the Mountaineers, who have a pair of strong offensive rebounders in Culver and Gabe Osabuohien.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

There are a couple of key factors in the Orange’s favor going into this game.

For one, the offense is really clicking.

The Mountaineers will obviously do all they can to slow down Boeheim, but the Orange have plenty of other players who are capable of having big nights.

Griffin and Guerrier are poised for monster games after their contributions weren’t needed in the San Diego State win. Girard is also capable of going off on any given night. Dolezaj’s steady play will always be there for the Orange, and he’ll make sure to continually find the hot hand to keep the offense rolling.

Syracuse should be able to handle the Mountaineers’ pressure as well. The Orange have done a great job taking care of the ball this season, ranking 21st in turnover rate. They have two capable point guards in Girard and Kadary Richmond, so they can rotate the two and stay fresh at that position all game.

On the other side of the ball, West Virginia’s shooters are certainly scary, but the Orange have defended the 3 very well this season. They surrender just 31.5% from beyond the arc.

The 2-3 zone is tough for opponents outside of the ACC to handle. This was quite apparent Friday night, when the Aztecs were absolutely stymied by the Syracuse defense.

The zone has really served Syracuse well as underdogs in the tournament, carrying the Orange to a Sweet 16 run as an 11-seed in 2018 and a Final Four run as a 10-seed in 2016.

While Bob Huggins has faced the zone several times back when both teams were in the Big East, none of the current Mountaineer players have.

I really like the Orange’s chances to keep it close here and also think they can win outright.

Syracuse is a strong play at +3.5, and I would take it down to +3.

Pick: Syracuse +3.5 (Play to +3).

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