Florida at Syracuse (-6.5, 148) 7:00 ET, ESPN
The Gators enter this SEC-Big East Challenge match-up on a four-game winning streak against inferior competition following a seven-point loss at Ohio State on Nov. 15. In that game, Florida held a 34-27 rebounding edge, but was outscored 27-13 at the free-throw line — the latter part of an early negative trend. The returns on 6-3 freshman guard Bradley Beal are very positive, and through six games, Billy Donovan’s top three scorers were guards. More good news is that frontcourt starters Patric Young and Erik Murphy are stepping up nicely. The Gators are 6-0 ATS as a road underdog or pick the last two seasons.
After three 20-plus-point covers against cupcakes, Syracuse had a pair of scrums with Virginia Tech and Stanford, but still won the Pre-Season NIT. Jim Boeheim has been spreading around the playing time so far, with nine players with at least 13 minutes per game. Seven-foot soph Fab Melo has added a much-needed inside presence, and forward James Southerland (a 6-8 forward with a 7-4 wingspan) and guard Dion Walters have added double-figures scoring punch to the veteran trio of Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph and Brandon Triche. Off their 84-48 slaughter of Eastern Michigan, the Orangemen are 8-1 ATS after a blowout win by 30 points or more.
ISS Game Estimator – Syracuse by 3
Vanderbilt at Louisville (-8, 135) 9:00 ET, ESPN
The Commodores still haven’t straightened things out entirely after being shocked by Cleveland State and losing at home to Xavier in overtime. While coach Kevin Stallings’ team is 5-2, its only notable victory was over Oregon State by two at home on Nov. 21 as 8-point favorites. A big part of the problem is a knee injury that has sidelined 6-11 center Festus Ezeli for six to eight weeks. John Jenkins, who led the SEC in scoring last year, is at it again, averaging over 20 points per game. Jeffery Taylor, an athletic 6-7, 225-pound senior, is another potential NBA draft pick, and Brad Tinsley is a solid point guard. Vandy is a dandy 14-5 ATS in road games the last three seasons.
Rick Pitino’s Louisville club already has toppled Butler by 16, smothered Arkansas St. 54-27 and handled a good Long Beach State squad 79-66. Junior assists leader Peyton Siva is dynamic at the point, but missed time with an ankle injury, forcing senior backup Russ Smith to step in. Guard Kyle Kuric leads in scoring for the 6-0 Cardinals. 6’11 soph center Gorgul Dieng has been an early-season shot-blocking presence and top recruit Chane Behanan leads in rebounding and field goal percentage. The Cardinals are 12-4 ATS after a win by 10 points or more the last two seasons.
ISS Game Estimator – Louisville by 11
Thanks to the “Mr. Minestrone” for these game writeups.