A few days off after a losing day on Saturday to just kind of get things back to neutral and mentally reset a bit. Not a huge slate of games to work with tonight but I did some value and came up with a card I feel pretty good about. Here’s what I’m playing….
Syracuse (-2.5): After starting ACC play at 1-4 Florida State has now won 3 straight to fight their way back to 4-4 and are playing a bit better. That said they’ll find themselves with a tough challenge tonight heading to New York to take on the Orange. When you play against Syracuse the first question always asked is can you shoot the 3? If not, then odds are you’ll be in for a long night. Florida State does plenty of things well but shooting it from 3 is not one of them. As a team they are 225th in the nation at 33% from 3 and only 28% of the points they score are from 3, that ranks them 274th in the nation in that area. As mentioned that’s a major issue against Syracuse because they protect the paint about as well as anyone in the nation. Opponents score just 41% of their points against Cuse from 2 point land. That is 348th (out of 353) D1 teams. Most nights FSU will have a size advantage and can overwhelm opponents with length. Against Syracuse however nobody has a height advantage. The Orange have the tallest roster in D1 and across the board they have players that are pretty much taller than yours. Not to overly simplify that but it is what it is. There is nobody on the roster shorter than 6’5″ that sees any real minutes. Offensively for Cuse most of the damage is done by the trio of Battle, Hughes and Brissett. None of that group is terribly efficient (with the exception of Battle who is clearly above average) but what they’ve proven they can do is score. Those 3 combine for about 45 points a game and when the dust settles they all usually find a way to get theirs. More than anything else though I think they win this game on the defensive end. They figure to do what they can to slow this game down and force FSU to score in the half court. In order to do so they are going to have to prove they can hit contested 3’s and I’ll need to see it to believe it. Guys like Walker, Savoy and Mann who can usually get off clean looks from 3 due to the height won’t have that luxury tonight. Those attempts will still be there but with an army of long armed perimeter defenders waiting for them they’ll be much tougher looks than usual. When you consider FSU shoots it at only 33% from 3 to begin with, the reasonable assumption would be that sledding is even tougher than that tonight. I see this as a 71-63 type of win for Cuse as they should take care of business at home.
New Mexico (+2.5): It’s been quite an odd season for New Mexico and I’ve even commented on Twitter a few times in the last month or so that they have maybe had to strangest season of any team in the nation. They’ve lost some games they frankly had no business losing and had other losses where they’ve just been destroyed. Then of course is that blowout win they had over Nevada in early January. That game shows and proves that the talent is there when everything comes together for this roster. We’ll get back to the Lobos in a minute but now let’s take a look at San Diego State. The Aztecs are playing better lately by winning 4 of their last 5, but still isn’t a team I really trust on the road or in a hostile environment. The Pit isn’t quite the house of horrors for road teams that it once was, but it’s still a difficult place to play. The Aztecs have won just two road games all season and one of them was against San Jose State who is a borderline bottom 10 team in all of division 1. Offensively while far from great San Diego State has been better than D1 average this season, defensively however they are not only below average but as bad as they’ve been in about 15 years. Offensively the Lobos don’t do much inside but they are perfectly happy launching 3’s all night. The Aztecs play a decent amount of zone and generally they’ll let opponents cast away from deep as often as they like. Mathis and McGee are both excellent 3 point shooters and each figure to get more than their fair share of looks tonight. Then you have guys like Jackson, Maluach, and Kuiper who are all much better 3 point shooters than they’ve shown this season. There’s of course some variance involved there but those 5 can all shoot it and that figures to be an issue against this Aztecs defense. These teams met last month with SDSU putting up a 20 point win on a whopping 1.31 PPP. Realistically there should be no shot they even get close to a 1.31 tonight. Included in that was a combined 13 for 14 from the role player trio of Mensah, Arop and Narain. Again that is something that I consider extremely unlikely to happen again. I mentioned earlier how the Aztecs are playing better lately but they are so heavily dependent on the duo of Watson and McDaniels. Both are very good players but if either is less than his normal self tonight I really don’t think SDSU can win this game on the road. Schakel should still be a no go tonight and even if he does play you’d figure limited minutes for a guy who isn’t 100%. He’s a tough loss to take because he is actually the most efficient offensive player on the team and he can really stretch the defense with his 3 point shooting. At the end of the day I’ll admit it’s tough to trust this Lobos team but getting 2.5 at home against an SDSU team that’s proven next to nothing on the road is too much to pass up on.
New Mexico (+2.5)