WEST VIRGINIA (15-6, 5-3 Big East) AT NO. 4 SYRACUSE (21-1, 8-1 Big East)
Time/TV: 1 p.m./ESPNU
Location: Carrier Dome
West Virginia 17 (No. 4 Big East)
Syracuse 1 (No. 1 Big East)
Line: Syracuse - 12.5 (139 o/u)
West Virginia Players to Watch: F Kevin Jones, 6-8 Sr. (20.9 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 54.9% FG); G Darryl “Truck” Bryant, 6-2 Sr. (17.4 ppg, 2.7 apg, 2.8 rpg); F Deniz Kilicli, 6-9 Jr. (10.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 52% FG). Bryant helped carry the Mountaineers earlier in the season, but in his last five games he is 20-for-74 (27 percent) from the field and has made nine of his last 38 3-point attempts (23.7 percent).
Syracuse Players to Watch: F Kris Joseph, 6-7 Sr. (13.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 35.6% 3s); G Dion Waiters, 6-4 So. (12.5, 2.6 apg, 2.3 spg); G Scoop Jardine, 6-2 Sr. (8.5 ppg, 5 apg, 51% FG). Waiters played only 12 minutes in Monday’s win over Cincinnati. He scored just two points in the victory, ending his 9-game double-double scoring streak.
Storylines: Syracuse lost its unbeaten record Saturday against Notre Dame, but after Monday’s win over Cincinnati, the Orange are still 1.5 games on top of the Big East. WVU is 5-3 in the league after Wednesday’s 78-62 loss at St. John’s.
Keys: Syracuse is the league-leader at 78 point per game and the Mountaineers are third with 75. The significant difference, however, is that the Orange surrender 60.3, while the Mountaineers give up 66.5. Syracuse also leads the Big East, making 47.9 percent of its field goal attempts and allows its opponents to shoot just 38.3. West Virginia is sixth at 46 percent shooting, but is 14th in the conference, allowing opponents to shoot 43.8 percent. With sophomore center Fab Melo expected to be out for the third straight game, the Mountaineers could have a significant advantage on the boards. WVU was already a superior rebounding team with 39 rebounds per game and a six rebound per game margin. Syracuse grabs 36.2 boards per game, but only out-rebound its opponents by less than a board per game. The Orange leads the conference with 7.4 blocked shots and 10.3 steals per contest and is second in the Big East with 16.8 assists per game. West Virginia is last in the Big East at 64 percent from the foul line. Syracuse has perhaps the best depth in the country, even without Melo. Nine different Orange players play at least 12 minutes and two points per contest. West Virginia, on the other hand, has just five players who play more than 20 minutes per game. Jones scored 26 points and had 14 rebounds in the Mountaineers’ loss to St. John’s on Wednesday and now has 14 double-doubles and 13 20-point performances this season. However, Jones scored just four points in last year’s visit to the Carrier Dome. The Mountaineers are 2-4 in true road games this season, while Syracuse is 14-0 at home this season with only three games not decided by double-digits.
The Bottom Line: Even in the win over Cincinnati, Syracuse didn’t look like itself. With the Orange playing at less than their best, expect Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins to keep this game close for most of the game.
The Pick: Syracuse 75, West Virginia 66
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