Can NC State keep rolling against Syracuse?

Now that we have to wait 205 days for an NFL football game, it opens up some free time to dive deeper into college basketball. Honestly, there couldn’t be a more perfect time to pivot. March Madness is still a few weeks away, the conference schedule is heating up, and teams looking to make a late push are running out of time. Late February is for resume building, and the additional pressure doesn’t always lead to teams looking their best.

North Carolina was a perfect example last night. The Tar Heels got bet up to 5.5-point favorites and looked like a team pressing the entire game. UNC shot a miserable 16% from 3-point range and 60% from the line in an 80-72 home loss to Miami. The loss left plenty of bettors wondering if North Carolina will ever find the consistency that allowed them to flip the switch like it did last March.

North Carolina’s next opponent, No. 23 N.C. State, travels to the JMA Wireless Dome on Tuesday night to take on a feisty Syracuse team that refuses to quit on its season. Despite most likely finding themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to the NCAA tournament, the Orange are coming off consecutive road wins at Florida State and Boston College. Can they continue their success as slight home favorites? Here is why I think the market is overvaluing the Orange at home.

North Carolina State’s Jarkel Joiner (1) dribbles into Boston College territory during the first half Saturday in Boston. (AP Photo/Mark Stockwell)

No. 23 North Carolina State +1.5 (-120) at Syracuse

I know the trends are against us. Home unranked teams have been an excellent play hosting ranked opponents, but I am not sure that’s the case here. I’m leaning more toward this number being an overreaction to the scheduling spot, which creates value on the Wolfpack. The combination of N.C. State coming off a 30-point blowout win and being on the third leg of a road trip is enough to make any bettor think twice before backing it. However, I like that the Wolfpack responded to last week’s loss to Virginia in a big way against an inferior team.

The Pack buried Boston College from the perimeter, shooting 15-of-30 from beyond the arc, and got big contributions from both Jarkel Joiner (26 points) and DJ Burns (18 points, 10 rebounds). If the Wolfpack can stay hot and hit from the outside against Syracuse’s zone, the Orange will have a tough time keeping up offensively. In conference play, the Wolfpack turn it over at the second-lowest rate (8.47 TOs per game), and they also rank fourth nationally in turnover percentage at KenPom. In addition to solid ball security, they also hold an advantage on the offensive glass, providing more opportunities to convert extra possessions into second-chance points.

It’s always possible they come out flat on the road, but if N.C. State has its legs, it will be the better team on both ends of the floor. The Wolfpack are 10-5 in the ACC, with four of their five conference losses coming to teams above them in the standings. The outlier was an 80-69 loss at Chapel Hill, and the Heels are much more talented than their record shows. However, N.C. State has done a decent job of handling business against less talented opponents and proved a few weeks ago it can come back and close out on the road against Wake Forest. I trust the Wolfpack to get enough shots to drop to secure the cover here, so I will take the points with the road dog.


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