2012 NCAA Tournament
Third Round – East Region
Saturday, 3/17/12, 12:15 p.m. Eastern, TV: CBS
#1 Syracuse Orange (32-2) vs. #8 Kansas State Wildcats (22-10)
CONSOL Energy Center – Pittsburgh, PA
Opening Line: Syracuse -5.5
Current Line: Syracuse -4.5
Opening Total: 134.5
Current Total: 134
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker
The top-seeded Syracuse Orange avoided a major upset on Thursday in a 72-65 win over No. 16 North Carolina-Asheville in the second round of the NCAA tournament’s East Region and will not be able to make the same mistakes Saturday when they face the eighth-seeded Kansas State Wildcats in the third round. The Orange (32-2) had the help of some favorable calls down the stretch and overcame a 34-30 halftime deficit but will have a much tougher opponent this time in the Wildcats (22-10).
Without 7-foot center Fab Melo on the court for Syracuse (-4.5, O/U 134), his teammates bombed away from 3-point range and did not have the confidence to go inside in the first half. The Orange attempted 23 overall in the game and made five, as they were stifled by Asheville’s 2-3 zone even though they play against it in practice. Following a similar script to their semifinal loss to Cincinnati in the Big East tournament last week, the team thought 3-pointers were the best way to stick around.
Reserve forward James Southerland was the only Syracuse player who made more than one shot from beyond the 3-point arc, hitting 3 of 5 and finishing with a team-high 15 points in 29 minutes off the bench. Southerland and freshman Rakeem Christmas garnered most of the playing time that became available sans Melo. Christmas had one of his best games of the season, totaling six points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes as the starter in the middle.
Kansas State did not have an easy time with No. 9 Southern Miss either but eventually prevailed in a 70-64 victory. The Wildcats got a game-high 30 points from guard Rodney McGruder, who will look to test the Orange backcourt along with point guard Angel Rodriguez. They are a strong rebounding team but lack experience at the point in Rodriguez, but he came through late against the Golden Eagles with seven of his 13 points in the last 2:10 of the game.
Syracuse is led by a pair of seniors in point guard Scoop Jardine and forward Kris Joseph. But neither player has shot the ball well lately, and both need to play better if the team is going to advance to the Sweet 16. The duo combined to make 6 of 18 shots on Thursday, including 1 of 9 from beyond the arc. They totaled just 15 points between them in the loss to the Bearcats in the Big East tourney and turned the ball over nine times.
The Orange are 1-7 against the spread in their last eight games but are 9-4 ATS in their past 13 against Big 12 foes. Kansas State has won three of four straight-up and ATS. The OVER is 8-1-1 in the last 10 neutral site games for the Wildcats.