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Arizona State vs. Syracuse
It has become common knowledge over the years that the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee is incapable of choosing the teams most-deserving to play on college basketball’s biggest stage.
Some critics go as far as to suggest that the Selection Committee is somehow compromised and that the entire process is rigged against mid-majors.
I reject that notion but certainly accept the claim that the Committee is unable to do its job due to sheer ineptitude.
Exhibits A in support of this conclusion is Arizona State, a team that started the season 12-0 due to unsustainable variance. The Sun Devils shot nearly 60 percent from the field and almost 50 percent from beyond the arc during their 12-0 run.
Once the positive variance dissipated (it was just a matter of time), Arizona State struggled against the better teams in the Pac-12.
The Sun Devils finished below .500 in league play (8-10), losing to Colorado (twice), Oregon (twice), Stanford and Oregon State, among others.
The most significant issue facing the Sun Devils is their inability to rebound. Indeed, Arizona State is ranked 226th in the nation in total rebounds (1,092), 211th in offensive rebounds per game (9.90) and 240th in rebounding margin at minus-1.0.
Exhibit B in support of the Committee’s malfeasance is Syracuse. Deserving teams like St. Mary’s (who should have been a 5-seed) and USC were overlooked in favor of the Orange, who finished tied for 10th in the ACC and suffered a pair of Quadrant 3 losses along the way.
Like Arizona State, Syracuse stinks and has no business being in the Tournament. With that said, Syracuse’s trademark 2-3 zone finished ranked 16th nationally in scoring defense (64.5) and 8th in field goal percentage defense (39.6).
I also like the fact that the Orange limited opponents to just 40.4 percent shooting from the field and 30.1 percent from beyond the arc away from home this season.
Syracuse finished the 2017-18 campaign with the nation’s 49th-best rebound margin (4.5). The Orange do an excellent job protecting the rim, finishing 8th in college basketball in blocked shots per game (5.6).
Jim Boeheim’s squad played the 17th-most difficult schedule in Division I this season and secured wins over Virginia Tech, Louisville, Miami Florida and Clemson.
The Orange won’t be intimidated by the big stage as they are 65-38 SU all-time in the NCAA Tournament, while coach Boeheim owns a 47-28 SU mark in the Big Dance.
Syracuse is 17-7 SU in the Tournament since 2008 and has covered the point spread in four of its last 5 appearances.
In contrast, the Sun Devils are a money-burning 10-26 ATS in their last 36 neutral site affairs, 1-7-2 ATS in their last ten games versus .601 or greater opposition and 0-4 ATS in their last four clashes with opponents with a winning record.
Finally, Syracuse is reliable from the charity stripe where they made 74 percent of their free throws this season. The Orange also made 76.7 percent of their free throws on the road and 81.9 percent of their attempts over their last five games.
In what is essentially a toss-up game between two undeserving participants, grab the points with Syracuse as one of Oskeim Sports’ Free Basketball Picks for Wednesday, March 14.
Oskeim Sports’ Free Basketball Picks:
- Syracuse (+2) over Arizona State
- Nebraska (+4.5) over Mississippi State