Last Updated: 2017-03-06
Matchup: Monmouth Hawks at Syracuse Orange
Date/Time: November 18, 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
College Basketball Betting Odds From Bookmaker
Spread: Syracuse -12
The Monmouth Hawks had one of the top mid-major resumes in college basketball last season, but the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference was just a one-bid league and the Hawks had to settle for the NIT. Suffice it to say that few mid-majors are as motivated for this season as Monmouth, who won a school record 28 games last year. With one failed test in the loss column, the Hawks head to the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York to take on the 18th-ranked Orange. Syracuse is a double-digit favorite for this matchup, with a total in the low 140s.
The Hawks are 1-1 straight up and against the spread this season, but they lost against the spread in the game that they won and covered the game that they lost. Monmouth was a 13-point winner over Drexel in the season opener as a 19.5-point favorite. They lost a heartbreaker in overtime to the South Carolina Gamecocks earlier this week, but covered the five-point spread in the 70-69 loss. Syracuse is 2-0 in a couple of unlined contests after clubbing Colgate 83-55 and Holy Cross 90-46. These two teams did not meet last season, but Monmouth topped UCLA on the road and Notre Dame and USC at neutral sites.
Monmouth was a #1 seed in the NIT, which would imply that they just missed the cut for the field of 68, but their stay in that event was short-lived. They lost in the second round to the eventual champion, George Washington. It does feel like the Selection Committee made the right call leaving Monmouth home and taking Syracuse to the Big Dance. The Orange made it to the Final Four. Hawks coach King Rice was happy with the team’s effort in the overtime loss to South Carolina, as his team erased a 40-22 deficit to eventually force the game into extra time. This is a major step up in class and it doesn’t come at a good time for Monmouth.
The hallmark of the Syracuse program is its outstanding zone defense. Monmouth is shooting just 36 percent from the floor and 27 percent from distance on the season. A cold shooting night can make for a very bad night against Syracuse. Fortunately, just about everybody of consequence is back for the Hawks, so maybe they can get things turned around. Last season’s leading scorer and MAAC Player of the Year Justin Robinson is shooting less than 28 percent from the floor, but he was nearly a 40 percent three-point shooter last season and shot over 43 percent overall. Chris Brady leads the team with 31 points through two games in increased minutes. He has earned some more playing time and he’s taken advantage of the opportunity. Micah Seaborn and Je’lon Hornbeak played a big role last season. The one certainty about this game is that this experienced team that won some big road and neutral-site games last season will not be scared of the moment.
Syracuse took a self-imposed postseason ban two years ago in what was a down year for the Orange anyway. It paid off handsomely with last season’s trip to the Final Four. The Orange knocked off Dayton, Middle Tennessee State, Gonzaga, and Virginia before falling victim to fellow ACC member North Carolina. It was a Syracuse team that narrowly made the field after going just 19-13 (9-9) and after losing five of its last six games. Timing is everything, isn’t it? Syracuse’s reputation as a premier program certainly didn’t hurt, nor did its strength of schedule.
Only four Orange players averaged double figures last season and three of them are gone. Leading scorer Michael Gbinije is a bench player for the Detroit Pistons. Malachi Richardson is also coming off the bench for the Sacramento Kings. Trevor Cooney exhausted his eligibility. Sophomore Tyler Lydon was, arguably, Syracuse’s best three-point shooter and he’s the top returning scorer. Seniors Andrew White Jr. and Tyler Roberson have been the primary scorers so far this year, but it’s hard to tell who will emerge because Syracuse has played two cupcakes. Fifth-year senior John Gillon seems to be comfortable in his role as floor general, as he already has 15 assists in two games.
College Basketball Free Pick: Syracuse Orange -12
Unless Monmouth flips the switch and starts making shots, it could be a very long night in the Carrier Dome. Syracuse is stepping up in class here as well, so this will be a good test for them, but this is a very experienced team with five senior leaders and a collection of sophomores that saw minutes last season in the rough-and-tumble ACC. Monmouth does bring basically the same team to the table as last year’s upset-minded Hawks, but the problem here is that many of Monmouth’s upsets came against up-tempo teams. The slowed-down structure of Syracuse’s game is going to be a big negative here.