Syracuse vs. Houston (-6.5)
The nightcap of Saturday's Sweet 16 actions provides the best-upset potential of the day, in my opinion. Arkansas and Baylor seem like safe bets to win, Loyola-Chicago's spread grew to -7 versus Oregon State and then there is this matchup between Syracuse and Houston.
You can see in two of the last three times that Houston has failed to cover, two came against Memphis and once versus Rutgers. Syracuse is the 30th tallest team in the nation and Houston is 145th. Rutgers was 44th and Memphis 55th. Two of Houston's three losses on the season have come to teams with a taller average height too, Tulsa (139th) and East Carolina (60th). Not to mention, Syracuse has covered in six straight games, winning five outright.
While I cannot ignore the fact that Houston is 16-3 ATS (84.2%) in its last 19 games following an ATS loss per NBC Sports Edge Top Trends, this matchup favors Syracuse ATS and the model agrees.
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Only six-of-30 opponents have scored 65 or more points versus Houston this season. Houston held Cleveland State to 56 and Rutgers to 60. Eight of Houston's last nine opponents have failed to score 65 points.
Syracuse has scored 65 or more points in 22-of-27 games and 75 or more points in 17-of-27 games. Syracuse's offense in the NCAA Tournament has been nothing short of spectacular as they scored 75 and 78 in two upsets.
Syracuse recorded 1.30 points per possession versus San Diego State and 1.09 against West Virginia. The offense is averaging 43.8% from three and 59.9% as an effective field goal percentage in the previous five outings, both ranking top 10 in the nation.
The Orange have gone 29-of-58 (50%) from three in the tournament and 24-of-41 (58.5%) from two through two games. Buddy Boeheim has averaged 26.0 in his last six games and Syracuse is 5-1 SU (83.3%) in that span.
In the NCAA Tournament, Boeheim is averaging 27.5 points per game and still sits at +6000 to be the Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament. I threw a $10 hoagie meal on it just in case Syracuse wins this game outright and the next, which is possible.
Both Houston and Syracuse's defenses play at slow paces compared to Syracuse's offense attempts to push the pace and squeeze out more possessions, unlike Houston's. If this is a slower-paced game, I expect Syracuse to hang around with its shooting compared to if it is a high-scoring game, the Orange could win this game outright.
Houston has averaged 80.0 points per game in its last three outings and grabbed 39.3 rebounds per outing. However, two of those three games were blowouts beating Cleveland State and Cincinnati.
The last five ATS wins for Houston following an ATS loss are a bit concerning too. The last five ATS wins in that situation came against Tulane twice, Cincinnati twice and USF once.
Syracuse is much better than all three of those teams. Glazing over the nine games Houston did not cover, I would quickly take Syracuse's roster and talent over a majority, if not all of those teams. Syracuse is my favorite underdog to cover today and the only one I think that will win.
With the Orange's height and shooting, I will back them to cover and sprinkle a little something on an outright upset.
Game Pick: Syracuse +6.5 (1u), Syracuse ML (0.25u)
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