Orange Watch: About that Syracuse basketball NCAA Championship betting slip

Marek Dolezaj goes up for a dunk against Duke. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: While cleaning off the Orange Watch desk this week, lo and behold we had practically forgotten about the 60/1 odds we claimed last August on a modest legal bet that would transform into $1500 should the ‘Cuse somehow cut down the nets in Minneapolis on April 8. Following Tuesday night’s 93-85 loss at North Carolina to drop SU’s record to 18-10, 9-6, the odds of cashing in that ticket are increasing dramatically.

Three of the final five opponents on the Syracuse basketball schedule include matchups against three of the top five teams on the current future odds board at Vegas Insider to win the college basketball national championship.

So far the Orange is 0-for-2 against Duke (2/1 odds) and North Carolina (12/1), with Virginia (13/2) looming in the Dome next week after another trip to Carolina to face a Wake Forest team Saturday afternoon (12:00 p.m. ET / ACC Network) that will be plenty hungry for seconds after edging Miami at home 76-75 Tuesday night.

The folks in Vegas now have the Orange at 85/1 odds to win it all, worse odds than Orange-slayer Buffalo (75/1) and Washington (80/1) and old friend Mike Hopkins, leading the woeful Pac 12.

» Related: Did Tyus Battle stay one too many seasons at Syracuse?

For Syracuse and head coach Jim Boeheim, there is plenty of work to do before the single elimination portion of the season commences, and while the 2/3 zone has been essentially stable through 28 games, the non-consistency of the offense, the shooting woes be it from beyond the arc, mid-range, or free looks from the foul line, figure to be the ultimate barometer of just how long this team will play in the postseason tournaments.

“I thought we did the things offensively that we’ve done on occasion,” Boeheim said following Tuesday’s loss at the Dean Smith Center, a building in which SU is now 0-for-4 against the Tar Heels in ACC play. “I think we were much better tonight than we’ve been, and I think it’s something we can build on.”

With little production inside to keep defenses honest, and only a handful of games in which the five starters have averaged double-figures, Boeheim knows the offensive “X” factor remains versatility at that end of the court and contributions from forwards Elijah Hughes and Oshae Brissett.

“He’s got to be able to go by (people), he’s got to be able to put the ball on the floor,” Boeheim said of Hughes who went a combined 9-of-22 shooting against Duke and UNC. “People are going to push up on him, he’s a good shooter, he’s having a great year, but he’s not ready to go by people off the dribble.”

With Brissett, Boeheim yearns for a return to how his game blossomed by the time March rolled around a year ago.

“He’s really struggling shooting the ball (this year) from the three and the foul line,” Boeheim said of his sophomore. “He works every day, he shoots every day, but he has just not shot the ball well.”

The formula exists for another SU NCAA run. Stifle an opponent with the unfamiliar 2/3 zone, and have just enough offense to advance. Just don’t bet on it.

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.