Finding a chink in the oddsmakers’ armor is tough come tournament time. But we peel back Saturday’s Elite Eight matchups, looking for some underlying mismatches that could make or break your college basketball bets this March.
Syracuse Orange vs. Marquette Golden Eagles (+3, 127)
Orange’s flat final 20 vs. Golden Eagles’ halftime adjustments
Marquette won the lone meeting with the Orange this season, putting together a strong second-half push to win 74-71 as a 1.5-point home underdog in February. Second-half adjustments are the Golden Eagles’ calling card in March, having won in comeback fashion in their first two NCAA games, versus Davidson and Butler, before steamrolling Miami Thursday.
Syracuse has been a poor second-half squad all season. The Orange ranked fifth in the country in first half margin (+8.7) but ran out of steam in the final 20 minutes, boasting an average margin of just +3.4. The Orange were outscored in the second half versus Indiana and Cal – which resulted in a backdoor cover for the Golden Bears - and who can forget their embarrassing 16-point collapse to Louisville in the conference title game. It’s enough to turn Orange bettors green.
Wichita State Shockers vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (-6.5, 132)
Shockers’ deep bench vs. Buckeyes’ short reserves
Just like a swarm of bugs, the Shockers have strength in numbers. Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall rolls out wave after wave of players, frustrating foes with their pressure defense and physical play. Just like a boxer working the body, WSU’s “Play Angry” philosophy wears on opponents and leaves them gasping for air come crunch time. The Shockers have gone at least 10 deep into their bench in each of their tournament games.
Ohio State head coach Thad Matta is not as trusting with his reserves. The Buckeyes have water wings on when it comes to their bench and try not to go too deep. They usually run an eight-man rotation and only two of those backups - Shannon Scott and LaQuinton Ross – get serious minutes. The grind of the tournament will never be more prominent for OSU than against the relentless Shockers Saturday. The Buckeyes have to avoid early foul trouble, especially PG Aaron Craft who picked up four personals versus Arizona.