The Syracuse Orange and Houston Cougars will close out the first day of the Sweet Sixteen on Saturday night. This should make for another quality and entertaining game on the Saturday slate. Syracuse and Houston make for a good matchup. These are two teams that can play defensive or offensive basketball.
They’re known more for their defense, but Syracuse and Houston have underrated offenses that can light up the scoreboard in a hurry. Quentin Grimes of the Cougars is probably the best player in the NCAA that not a lot of people don’t know about. Grimes has the spotlight on Saturday night against Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 defense.
Houston is coming off a tight win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights last weekend on Sunday. They had to work for that win, and Rutgers had the win right there in front of them. Rutgers just had to stay cool in the second-half and not tighten up. They did, though, and their slim three-point lead at the half didn’t last. That’s a tough loss for Rutgers, but they can’t hang their heads too low for that effort.
The Cougars had no competition in the First Round, as they smacked Cleveland State with an easy 87-56 win. That was Houston as their best, with the offense and defense working at peak form. That was against Cleveland State, though. Houston did match around their offensive and defensive averages against the Vikings in that contest. Having said that, the 2-3 for Syracuse is clicking right now, and is going to be a tough assignment for the Cougars.
Syracuse heads into Saturday with plenty of confidence right now. The Orange has been holding up well in March. They are winners in five of their last six, with their only loss a close call against the Virginia Cavaliers in a 72-69 loss in the ACC Tournament. Syracuse brushed themselves off and beat San Diego State, 78-62, then followed up for a 72-72 win against West Virginia in the Round of 32.
Their 2-3 defense gets most of the attention, but the Orange can score if Buddy Boeheim is hot. Boeheim has been hot throughout this tournament, and is going to have his biggest challenge versus the Cougars in the Sweet Sixteen. If the Orange want a blueprint for beating Houston, look at what Memphis did in two recent meetings on March 13 and March 19. Memphis didn’t win, though were within a possession or two of winning. Head below for our free Syracuse vs. Houston pick on March 27, 2021.
Syracuse Orange (11) vs. Houston Cougars (2) Sweet Sixteen Betting Odds:
Syracuse vs. Houston Prediction:
When it comes to being successful in March, it’s about the form teams are in at the moment. Being good in December and January doesn’t have an impact on what is happening right now. Syracuse is hitting their stride at the right time, and that’s why they’re still standing in the Sweet Sixteen despite losing eight games this year. The Orange are riding the hot hand of Buddy Boeheim, who has been on fire late in the season.
Boeheim scored 30 points against an active San Diego State defense, and then followed through with 25 points against West Virginia last weekend. He is averaging 18 points and 2.6 assists per game this season. Boeheim is a pure shooter that could provide a spark for an NBA team off the bench. But right now, Boeheim is helping the Orange out to 75.6 points per game for 72nd in the NCAA. They are one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the country, with a 78.5% percentage from the line.
Those freebies add up, and especially in what could be a tight game tonight, their free-throw shooting ability should help. For the Orange to get a straight up win, their 2-3 defense must disrupt Quentin Grimes. Grimes is the motor of the Cougars and has the talent to go off. He has scored 18.1 points and 6 rebounds per game. The Syracuse defense is designed to limit offense from the perimeter, and they did a fine job at holding teams to a 41.6% field goal percentage and 31.5% from three. That’s good for 85th and 66th in the NCAA.
The Cougars had one of the most dangerous defenses in the country statistically. They held teams to just 57.6 points per game for second in the NCAA. Opponents converted at a 37% clip from the field against Houston. However, what would those numbers look like in the ACC? Probably not as good.
Memphis, who was another one of the top teams in the conference, looked good against Houston in losses of 76-74 and 67-64. Against another top contender in the AAC, Wichita State beat the Cougars on February 18, 68-63. The Cougs are vulnerable and beatable when they aren’t picking on weak talent. Expect Boeheim to put together another standout performance in this one. This game should be close throughout, with the points the best option on Saturday night.