Syracuse vs Houston Sweet 16 Picks: Can 'Cuse Zone Out The Cougars?

No. 11 seed Syracuse has made a shocking run to the Sweet 16, knocking off San Diego State and West Virginia, powered by Buddy Boeheim and his 28.3 points per game in the NCAA Tournament.

Last Updated: Mar 27, 2021 8:00 PM ET

The Syracuse Orange sure don’t look like the team that finished eighth in the ACC. The Orange are back in the Sweet 16 after back-to-back impressive performances in the opening two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

Syracuse now has its sights set on the Elite Eight as they take on the Midwest Region’s No. 2 seed, the Houston Cougars. The Cougars survived a scare from Rutgers in Round 2 and are now 6-point college basketball betting favorites in this matchup.

Check out our best Syracuse vs. Houston March Madness picks and predictions for Saturday, March 27, with tip-off scheduled for 9:55 p.m. ET.

Syracuse vs Houston odds

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Sharp money and line movement report

By Patrick Everson

Houston hit the FanDuel odds board as 6.5-point chalk, fell to -6 early in the week and on Thursday returned to -6.5, where the line sits at 8 p.m. ET Saturday, a couple of hours before tipoff. As is the case at several other sportsbooks, Syracuse is a public underdog at FanDuel, with point-spread ticket count and money both running about 3/1 on the Orange. The total is up a point to 141 on two-way action, with the Over nabbing 54 percent of bets/51 percent of money. 

Check out the full line movement for this game

Syracuse Orange vs Houston Cougars betting preview


Syracuse: Bourama Sidibe C (Out), Frank Anselem C (Out).
Houston: Dejon Jarreau G (Questionable).
Find our latest NCAA basketball injury reports.

Betting trend to know

Syracuse is 6-0 ATS in its last six games in the NCAA Tournament as an underdog. Find more NCAA betting trends for Syracuse vs. Houston.

Picks made on March 22

Against the spread (ATS) pick

Yup, Syracuse’s March Madness odds weren’t great a few weeks ago, but that’s way in the past now, as the Orange followed up their beatdown of San Diego State with another strong showing in the Second Round, defeating No. 3 West Virginia 75-72 as 4-point underdogs.

The Orange took control of the game early, despite a slow start from star Buddy Boeheim, getting out to a 30-16 lead in the first half. Then “Buckets” Boeheim scored 22 of his 25 points in the second half to put the Mountaineers away.

The win was Syracuse’s fifth in its last six games, going 6-0 ATS, including the last three as underdogs. The lone loss came on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer against Virginia in the ACC Tournament.

So, how have the Orange done it? Well, shooting the lights out for one. But more importantly, the fabled Syracuse zone that wasn’t supposed to be as good this season (and frankly isn’t as long and athletic on the baseline as they normally are) has given opponents fits in the tourney so far, limiting them to 36.5 percent shooting from the field.

Now, they’ll be put to the test against a very good Houston team. The Cougars rank fifth in the country in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin but were oh so close to getting knocked off by Rutgers in the Second Round, surviving for a 63-60 win—and failing to cover the 8-point chalk. 

The Cougs were just never able to get comfortable against the Scarlet Knights and ended up shooting 37 percent from the field. And now they will have to worry about the status of Dejon Jarreau all week. He gutted out his performance against Rutgers but was clearly in a lot of pain with a hip pointer. 

While Houston is a very strong team and should have an edge on the offensive glass, the injury to Jarreau is concerning, as the Cougars would miss him at both ends of the floor. And the Syracuse zone just makes teams stupid. On top of that, Houston is just 1-4 ATS in its last five games as 9.5-point faves or less. Taking the points with the red-hot Orange seems like the right play here.

PREDICTION: Syracuse +6.5 (-110)

Over/Under Pick

The total for this Sweet 16 matchup hit the board at 140, and that’s an interesting number for a lot of reasons. First, the Syracuse defense has played much better recently. During the Orange’s six-game cover streak, they have allowed just 66.3 points per game on just 37.8 shooting from the field.

Second, Houston’s defense is awesome too. They rank 12th in adjusted defensive efficiency and were able to lock down Rutgers when they needed to and rode that defensive intensity to the win.

And third, Houston has not been as dominant in closer games. The Cougars were 9.5-point favorites nine times this season. In those games, there was an average of 129.2 total points scored per game with the Under going 6-3. 

Mix in the questionable status of Jarreau, and the improving-every-day Syracuse defense, and this one should slip below the number. 

PREDICTION: Under 140 (-110)

Team total pick

The Syracuse team total is a low one by, its standards, sitting at 66.5. The Orange have gone above that number in 10 of their last 11 games, averaging nearly 76 points per game over that span.

That includes putting up 69 points on defensive-minded Virginia and 78 on a San Diego State team that was highly rated defensively. While Houston has given up 68 points or fewer in nine of its last 10 games, it hasn’t faced an offense anywhere near as good as Syracuse in that stretch.

Buddy Buckets gets the Orange Over this number.

PREDICTION: Syracuse team total Over 66.5 (-110)

Syracuse vs Houston betting card

  • Syracuse +6.5 (-110)
  • Under 140 (-110)
  • Syracuse Team Total Over 66.5 (-110)
March Madness parlays

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Use our March Madness parlay calculator to create your own parlays and see their potential payouts.

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March Madness is one of the most popular times of the year for sports bettors, which of course makes it one of the busiest times of the year for online sportsbooks. Every betting site will offer March Madness odds but the top sites are safe and secure, offer a wide range of banking options, and give you a ton of markets for each game. Check out the best March Madness betting sites in your region.

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